Outer Banks Connection-Replacement for Bonner Takes Huge Step Forward


There might actually be a replacement for the Bonner Bridge connecting the northern Outer Banks with Hatteras Island

ItâåÛåªs hard to imagine a more complete rejection of a lawsuit than the summary judgment issued by NE North Carolina District Judge, Louise Flanagan in finding for NCDOT and against the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC).

It was, by any standards, a legal smackdown. The lawsuit contended that NCDOT had failed to completely and thoroughly investigate all available options in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued before issuing their finding that building a 21/2 mile bridge parallel to the existing span.

The problem is the SELC and the groups it represents will only accept one outcome–a 17.5 mile bridge in the sound that parallels Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge but would have not direct access to it. At one time, that was the preferred alternative. However, as Judge Flanagan pointed out, it was very thoroughly examined and no one–not any agency, not any entity nor any individual or consultant–could find a way to pay for it.

NCDOTâåÛåªs mandate in building almost anything is to find the best practical solution. Using that criteria, the 17.5 mile bridge fails the practical test–a point Flanagan notes in her findings: âåÛåÏ . . . the Pamlico Sound Bridge Corridor alternative . . . was not a prudent alternative because of its cost and the funding needed to construct a bridge of that magnitude in a single construction phase.âåÛå

The ruling is 42 pages in length and Judge Flanagan gets kudos for doing such a complete job.

This is a major step forward, although more hurdles remain. The SELC has filed for an administrative hearing claiming CAMA violated its own guidelines in issuing a permit for the bridge. That case should go forward soon; and the plaintiffs certainly retain the right to appeal Judge FlanaganâåÛåªs decision.

Since we talking about transportation, donâåÛåªt forget the outbound Wright Memorial Bridge will be closed for maintenance until mid May starting next week. The impact should be minimal, although there may be some delays on weekends.


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