Reopened bridge brings normalcy back to Hatteras
Posted December 18, 2013
Rodanthe, N.C. — 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.
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."