Local News

Agencies Agree On First Stage in Replacing Bonner Bridge

Posted August 27, 2007

— Transportation and environmental agencies agreed on Monday to move forward with the first phase of a plan to replace the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which connects Hatteras Island with the mainland.

Officials endorsed replacing the 2.5-mile bridge with a short bridge built parallel to the existing one. The project is estimated to cost between $294 million and $347 million.

Bonner Bridge, which opened in 1963, has a sufficiency rating of 2, with 100 being the best. State transportation officials say it is safe to cross, however, and a repair project is scheduled to start later this year.

Officials rejected two versions of a 17.5-mile bridge that would bypass Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge for cost reasons. That project would have cost an estimated $930 million to $1.4 billion.

Instead, they identified the short bridge plan as the "least environmentally damaging practicable alternative," in a statement issued by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, state Department of Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Highway Administration North Carolina Division.

The agreement does not give final approval to the short-bridge plan, officials emphasized. The agencies agreed that more environmental impact studies still need to be done.

"The environment in the study area is complex and constantly changing. The ability to predict the effect of Mother Nature's future impact on the study area is extremely difficult to quantify," the joint statement issued by the agencies read.

"The shoreline alone is continually moving and unexpected storms will exacerbate the uncertainties. The environment present today can be changed overnight by Mother Nature," the statement continued.

DOT will be responsible for preparing a final environmental impact study before any permits are approved for the first phase of the short bridge project.

Officials also agreed to move forward with the next stages of the short bridge project according to future needs and environmental conditions, including the erosion rate.

Those subsequent phases include improvements to N.C. Highway 12 south of the bridge, including relocating the road and short, elevated bridges. That work would also be done within the easements of the existing bridge, as far as possible.

The cost of the shorter bridge, combined with the road improvements, is estimated to be between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion.

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  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 28, 1:05 a.m.

    I'm really getting tired of correcting mis-information about the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, so I'm not going to bother. For short, it was completely voluntary to remove the tolls because the revenue had paid for the road more than once, and there was no "voter lawsuit" whatsoever.

    If you agree that we have as many state-maintained roads as Texas, and fewer people to pay for them, then where do you expect to get another $3-5 billion dollars for parity?

  • Broker - Back from Lurking Aug 28, 12:51 a.m.

    at any rate, I'm glad NC is moving forward, albeit with small baby steps, toward providing a safe replacement to that antique spanning the Oregon Inlet! :)

  • Broker - Back from Lurking Aug 28, 12:48 a.m.

    A) TX only has a couple toll roads, and they are around metro areas - almost a negligible percent of the total TX road miles
    B) TX has more gasoline purchased within its boundaries due to the sheer size of the nation, er, state therefore resulting in more dollars in gas tax revenue
    C) VA had to be compelled to remove the road and bridge/tunnel tolls (except the big Bay Bridge Tunnel for obvious reasons) after a boston tea party-esque lawsuit against the state by the people of VA

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 28, 12:41 a.m.

    Our gas tax in NC has to be relatively higher than our surrounding states, because our state has nearly 50,000 miles of roads to maintain. This is nearly the same as the state of Texas. The difference is that Texas raises $6.5 billion a year, mainly in tolls, to take care of its roads, while NC raises less than half that amount.

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 28, 12:38 a.m.

    It's also worth pointing out that in my home state of Virginia, there was no "Boston Tea Party" or mass exit when it came time for tolls to build and maintain all the tunnels and bridges in Hampton Roads. These structures are expensive to maintain in seawater environment.

    Why do some of you think North Carolina has to be any different?

  • Broker - Back from Lurking Aug 28, 12:37 a.m.

    http://www.gaspricewatch.com/usgastaxes.asp shows our Gas Tax; http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/tax_stru.html shows links to other taxes. pretty bad :(

  • OpinionOnEverything Aug 28, 12:30 a.m.

    This one's a no-brainer for tolls. We can't afford the billions of dollars needed to replace bridges to shifting islands for relatively few residents, out of state property owners, tourists, and real estate interests. I agree that year-round residents should get a break, but these improvements need to be paid by the users in this case.

  • jahausa Aug 28, 12:28 a.m.

    We agree completely now Commentator. Toll=usage fee.

    However, Broker, you bring up interesting points. You have doc to back up the statements, showing NC taxes as relatively high? I am really unaware myself...then you would be correct. I often wonder where the money goes, but 250 million sure seems like a lot to me, so it would seem reasonable that "taxing," or whatever, tourists to use a bridge seems to make sense to me. Can't imagine that much was ever budgeted for this...

    How much is 540 going to cost?

  • Broker - Back from Lurking Aug 28, 12:22 a.m.

    The Stamp Tax was also billed as a "pay per use" tax... it just so happened that everyone used paper, and therefore paid the tax even after they already paid taxes. Similarly, we pay one of the highest income taxes in the nation, one of the highest gas taxes in the nation, and one of the highest highway use / car taxes in the country. These are just 3 of our taxes that are used toward roads (add on to that hotel tax, restaurant tax, etc). We are taxed already multiple times for the maintenance and building of roads and bridges. Why tax yet again? Or even a "pay per use" fee? word it however makes you feel comfortable, it is still money requested by the state to pay for something we should have already allotted money. The issue I have isn't so much the taxation - it's a necessary tool. But our leaders are wasting that tool left and right. Why give them more tools? If a kid breaks something 3x, do you give him a 4th hoping not to do the same? Surprise - 4th gets broken too.

  • YeahWhatever Aug 28, 12:02 a.m.

    I would have to strongly beg to differ.

    Toll = USER FEE. You use you pay.

    Technically, so is the gas tax, but in a more indirect route.

    Roads are never "free".

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