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Reopened bridge brings normalcy back to Hatteras

Posted December 18, 2013

— Life is returning to normal on the Outer Banks now that Bonner Bridge has reopened.

The only land link between Hatteras Island and the rest of North Carolina was closed to traffic for 12 days when state transportation engineers said underwater erosion made the bridge vulnerable to collapse.

Thousands of people on Hatteras Island had use ferries to get back and forth from Dec. 3 until Sunday, when officials reopened the span.

"It was just a very difficult time if you had to go off the island. Instead of taking an hour, it could take five or six hours," resident Jim Kobylinski said Wednesday.

"I live on the north side of the bridge, and I couldn't get back down here," said Brad Kleman, who manages this surf shop in Rodanthe.

Kleman said it could have been much worse. December is the slow season on the North Carolina coast.

"Most businesses around here close down," he said. "If it was in August or something, it would be pretty devastating."

Crews spent a few days dredging tons of sand from Oregon Inlet and dumping them around the bridge's pilings to stabilize them. Now, a contractor is using cranes to pile on giant sand bags to reinforce the 50-year-old bridge even further. Repair work will continue for the next two-and-a-half months.

Bonner Bridge Repairs to, debate over Bonner Bridge continue

Dare County commissioners sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Tony Tata to thank him for quickly addressing safety issues and reopening the bridge.

Reopening Bonner Bridge didn't close down the legal fight over a replacement bridge, however.

Despite heavy criticism from the McCrory administration, the Southern Environmental Law Center continues to fight the state's proposal to build a span parallel to Bonner Bridge. The group argues it's not a long-term plan and is an environmental threat, lobbying instead for a 17-mile bridge that would swing out into Pamlico Sound and bypass the fragile Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

"Personally, it would be nice if they could build a 17-mile bridge to bypass it all, but who's going to pay for it?" Kleman said.

"I just think it's a joke," Kobylinski said if the legal delay. "They should come here, live here and see what it's like. They're destroying lives of people that work here."

10 Comments

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  • lovinOBX Dec 23, 1:59 p.m.

    As much as I love my outer banks I must say something. I get a bit tired of hearing the whinning about what the people who live out on the island have to go through. Last summer the gripes were that the governor had cut off their unemployment and there is no work off season there. Newsflash..I live on the mainland because I can get paid well for what I do for a living. There lies one of the reasons I don't live on the island. Bottom line is we make our bed, and then have to lay in it. Make your own decision where you want your bed....and deal with it!

  • Bendal1 Dec 19, 4:45 p.m.

    The long alternative would have never been granted a construction permit. NCDOT studied it because by Federal rules an "avoidance alternative" must be considered before Federal money can be used on a project. The long option bypassed the Pea Island Refuge, but by no means was it considered the best alternative, ever. The very high costs, doubtful possibility of getting construction permits (dredging the sound to allow construction was a HUGE concern by permitting agencies) and concerns over safety and emergency vehicle access in the event of a crash on the bridge were all strikes against it. The shorter option does impact the Pea Island refuge, but that can be mitigated for, and it has the benefits of costing less, can be built faster, and provides direct access to the Outer Banks.

  • rocket Dec 19, 2:10 p.m.

    "You live on an island. If you want a bridge to your 2nd and 3rd home, you probably should pay something more than what the rest of do. Otherwise, it's just welfare, government assistance...for people who don't take personal responsibility for their decisions."

    If you have ever been there, you would know that most of the residents are not wealthy people with vacation homes. I tend to agree that people should pay for their own roads and bridges. But it is unfair to only apply that to certain people while expecting tax payers to take care of everyone else.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 19, 10:40 a.m.

    As comedian Sam Kinison used to say to hungry people, "You live in a desert. There's no food there."

    You live on an island. If you want a bridge to your 2nd and 3rd home, you probably should pay something more than what the rest of do. Otherwise, it's just welfare, government assistance...for people who don't take personal responsibility for their decisions.

  • rocket Dec 19, 9:19 a.m.

    "The long bridge option would have already been built starting in 2003 if local officials in Dare County hadn't objected.

    Now we get to hear residents there complain and blame environmentalists when it was their own local officials who stopped it.

    It's not as if the state is ready to begin construction on the short bridge, either. They don't have the permits."

    Why build a long bridge when you can build a short bridge for a fraction of the cost? The long bridge would have bypassed Pea Island, essentially taking away access. They don't have the permits because the enviros keep holding it up in court. Take the enviro lawyers out of the picture and a new bridge would have been built by now.

  • rocket Dec 19, 9:17 a.m.

    "Brilliant move by McCrory/Tata. Manufacture a crisis, take some shots at environmentalists that play well to the red-meat crowd, then heroicly solve the problem."

    If you knew anything about this issue and the history, you would know that environmentalists deserve full blame for the bridge falling into disrepair and not being replaced when it was obviously becoming unsafe.

  • lazyrebel Dec 19, 8:55 a.m.

    Eco terriost that is what they are, a 17 mile bridge are they out of their minds? These people should not be allowed to sue as they don't live there or have a vested interest. If we don't stop them pretty soon they will tell us what we can and can't do on our own land

  • Icaretoo Dec 18, 7:22 p.m.

    Did the people that live there and are complaining about the inconvenience of getting on and off the island fail to notice it is an ISLAND when they chose to live there!! I vacationed there as a child in the 50s and early 60s and there was NO BRIDGE! You chose to live on an island and there will be times when you cannot use the bridge. Get used to it or move!!!

  • hp277 Dec 18, 6:36 p.m.

    The long bridge option would have already been built starting in 2003 if local officials in Dare County hadn't objected.

    Now we get to hear residents there complain and blame environmentalists when it was their own local officials who stopped it.

    It's not as if the state is ready to begin construction on the short bridge, either. They don't have the permits.

  • mayhem Dec 18, 6:25 p.m.

    Brilliant move by McCrory/Tata. Manufacture a crisis, take some shots at environmentalists that play well to the red-meat crowd, then heroicly solve the problem.