Three years from now and a few hundred million dollars later, a replacement span for the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet will finally be in place. Today marked the official beginning of the process as politicians came from Raleigh and Washington, DC to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new bridge.
The weather was about as good as it gets on the Outer Banks in early March with temperatures in the mid 60s and a gentle south breeze. The speakers included Governor Pat McCrory and Congressman Walter B. Jones, and a theme that seemed to run throughout the remarks was the extraordinary sense of teamwork that ran throughout a process that included more than ten years of courtroom battles.
“I noticed the teamwork you had between your local city, county and state officials and the federal government and the private sector would step up to the plate,” Governor McCrory said.
It was a phenomena that Representative Jones also remarked upon.
“I want to thank the local leadership that came to Washington on a regular basis . . . and sat down with us and talked about the needs of this coastal county. That is what helps Washington understand, this is a different county,” he said.
The bridge, completed in 1963 was supposed to have a 30 year lifespan, but legal battles between the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and NCDOT over over where to place the bridge, environmental impact and how documents were created created years of litigation.
It wasn’t until June of this year the SELC and NCDOT reached an agreement that would allow the bridge to be built without further lawsuits.
The bridge is one of three project called for in the settlement. The other two include a jug handle at the Rodanthe S curves to avoid an area of consistent ocean overwash, and a new route bypassing the New Inlet area of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The replacement span will have a 100 year planned life and will include stainless steel girders pilings driven 100’ into the ground. There will also be improved navigational aids for commercial and residential watercraft.