It was a heck of a day to dedicate the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge. There was a cold driving rain. The wind was from the northeast and the weather was deteriorating.
It was, as North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said, ”The perfect day because it shows the resilience and the determination of the people of the Outer Banks. A nor’easter we can take.”
The governor closed his remarks with, “Let’s dedicate this bridge. Let’s go have fun on the Outer Banks…”
With that, the scissors were handed out, the ribbon cut and the new bridge across Oregon Inlet is officially the Marc Basnight Bridge.
The residents of the Outer Banks know very well who Marc Basnight was, but people who do not live here may not be aware of the influence the state senator had on eastern North Carolina.
Born, raised and still living in Manteo, Senator Basnight was the longest serving Senate Pro Tem in the state’s history. Although he supported a number of issues, he is best known for his strong advocacy for the state’s university system and better roads for eastern North Carolina.
Senator Basnight resigned in 2011 because of health issues.
He was intricately involved in the multiple years of negotiations and lawsuits that delayed construction of a replacement for the Bonner Bridge for years.
It maybe that the delay created a better bridge. The Marc Basnight Bridge has a projected design life of 100 years.
NCDOT Secretary Jim Trogdon outlined how massive and how well-designed the bridge is in his remarks.
“It took 100 engineers who worked on this project to work on this design,” he said. “If you take all the piles that have been place and them end to end it would stretch 16 miles. “It is 3550 feet long with the highest level navigation span and the third longest segmental box girder in North America.”
A segmental box girder is a construction technique that creates a lighter but stronger girder than traditional bridge construction.
Suddenly the new Oregon Inlet bridge is open. No announcement, no huge fanfare, just a quick notice press release from NCDOT with a headline reading: “New Bridge Over Oregon Inlet Opens to Traffic” on Monday.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Sure there is an official ribbon cutting scheduled for April 2, but that will probably be a bit anticlimactic. The truth is, crossing that new bridge, with it’s wider lanes and 8’ shoulders designed for bicyclists, well that’s a thrill in itself.
It has been long time coming. The original Bonner Bridge was only supposed to have a 30 year lifespan. But 1993 came and went. Then 2003 and 2013 and still the bridge was there—aging and not always gracefully.
We had a chance to walk across the new bridge a couple of weeks ago, and looking down on the Bonner Bridge the pitting of the concrete cause by the power of salt driven winds was apparent.
And then there was the time a couple of years ago that divers discovered the force of the current through Oregon Inlet and scoured the sand and dirt completely away from some of the pilings supporting the bridge. In short, the pilings were attached to nothing but water.
Unlike the Bonner Bridge, this span is designed with a 100 year lifespan in mind. New materials that were not available in 1963 were used. Building techniques and engineering concepts unheard of 56 tears ago were integrated into the design.
And they’re not taking any chances not eh piling floating free. The pilings supporting the main spans were driven 100’ into the sand and mud beneath Oregon Inlet’s waters.
Over time, crossing the bridge will, of course, become mundane, something we do everyday. But for right now? Wow, is it exciting.
Cold, windy and spectacular. There is no other way to describe what it was like to walk across Oregon Inlet on the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge.
NCDOT has not opened the new bridge yet to traffic. They have indicated that is coming later this month, but on Saturday they opened the bridge to foot and bike traffic. It’s probably somewhat of a one-off type of thing, but it was worth every step of the journey.
The View from the Top
The view is spectacular…in every direction. A bit dizzying looking down though. But that also gives a good feel for just how large this new bridge is.
It’s doubtful that anyone ever thought of the Bonner Bridge as small, but looking down on it, it looks like something built out of a toy erector set. With the blocks and pieces of it showing what years of exposure to salt air, wind and Oregon Inlet currents has done.
When the Bonner Bridge was completed in 1964 it was designed to have a 30 year lifespan. Somehow it has managed to survive 55 years of use—thanks in large part to a Herculean effort from NCDOT.
This new bridge has a design life of 100 years. There are a number of design features that have gone into it that were not even available in 1963-1964 when the original span was being built. There are also material in use that were not available 50 years ago.
At the highest point looking down and seeing how narrow the passage through the Bonner is for boat traffic, helps to underscore some of the more remarkable features of this new bridge. It will have, as an example, nine arches that will allow boat traffic. That will help maintain a constantly shifting channel. The arches are also farther apart.
For the bike riders, there are going and coming bike paths. In theory, they could be multi-use paths, but since the sign says share the road with an image of a bicycle, that’s probably what they were designed for.
So…yes, cold, windy but worth it. Excited now for the grand opening of the bridge.
As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to look back over the year and some of the stories that we covered in our Joe Lamb Jr. & Associates blog. There were some tough choices that we had to make about which story to highlight for each month, but here it is—our 2018 recap.
January-Two Winter Snowstorms
Generally speaking the Outer Banks experiences one snowfall every winter. Two within two weeks of each other in the same month? Unheard of…until 2018.
February-Pea Island Bridge Named for Lifesaving Service Hero
Naming the bridge for Richard Etheridge is appropriate.
Etheridge was the captain of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station from the 1880s through the 1890s.
The Pea Island Lifesaving Station was the only all African American crew in the Lifesaving Service and was consistently rated as one of the best on the Outer Banks.
March-Nor’Easters Create Perfect Winter Surf
Maybe it was the back to back nor’easters that created the perfect conditions for the waves that rolled in on Wednesday. Maybe it was the wind shifting just enough to the west to stack those massive waves, so they were no longer an unreadable swirl of currents.
Whatever it was, something happened yesterday to create an almost perfect winter surfing day.
April-Record Breaking Bluefin Tuna
Caught on the last day of 2018 of the North Carolina bluefin tuna trophy season, there is a new state record for the largest of the tuna family.
Weighing in at 877 pounds the tuna was landed on March 17—that’s St. Patrick ’s Day. It does take a while for the weight to become official, but here it is a little less than one month later and there is a new record in the books.
May-Permit Needed for Carova Beach Parking
Heading to the Carova area of the Currituck Banks? If so, be sure to get a permit before parking on the beach.
Beginning this weekend—Memorial Day—a permit is required for anyone who is parking on the Carova beach. The very important word in that sentence is parking. In other words, if a family is planning on driving to the 4WD area, and stopping to go swimming or fishing, a permit will be needed.
(The jury is still out on how successful Currituck County’s permitting experiment has been.)
June-Fourth Outer Banks Microbrew Opens
And now we are four—four locally owned microbreweries on the Outer Banks, that is.
The Northern Outer Banks Brewing Company in Corolla just joined the mix this spring, and that brings the number of microbreweries on the Outer Banks to four. Or maybe five if 1718 Brewing down in Ocracoke is included…although we think that’s a bit of a long way to go for a beer.
July-New Book on the Lost Colony
There is a new book out on the Lost Colony and it may be the most comprehensive study of the fate of the 115 colonists that has been published.
Andrew Lawler’s The Secret Token, Myth, Obsession and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, is an amazing book that manages to incorporate elements of a a mystery or spy novel into a book filled with a detailed study of the history of the Lost Colony and why—and how—it has to hold such a dominant place in the American psyche.
August-Village Table and Tavern Opens in Duck
It seems like Village Table and Tavern in Duck has been under construction forever—but at long last it’s open!
For visitors who have been driving up to Corolla, that’s the building that’s been under construction at the Nor’Banks Sailing Center since February.
Was it worth the wait?
A soft opening visit this past weekend would say that yes it was—most emphatically.
September-Outer Banks Icon Glenn Eure Passes Away
We meet very few truly memorable people in our lives. Glenn Eure was one of them.
Anyone meeting him felt immediately as though he would be a friend for life. Glenn was funny, outgoing, irreverent and a remarkably complex man.
He passed away this past week, and for the Outer Banks and hundreds if not thousands of visitors that met him there is a void that will be hard to fill.
October-Mustang Fall Mustang Music Returns to Corolla
The first day of the Mustang Rock & Roast is now in the bag and whatever the expectations were, they were exceeded.
It helped that the weather was perfect, but the sunshine and autumn temperatures, just made an amazing day or music that much better.
The headliner, Big Something, didn’t disappoint…at all.
November-Kitty Hawk Winks Closes
Change is inevitable but somehow it seemed the Kitty Hawk Winks was immune to that. Through 65 years it remained at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and the Beach Road, the perfect beach town convenience store, dispensing food, sandwiches, teeshirts and cheap souvenirs in equal measure.
Change, evidently has finally caught up with the icon to beach living and Thanksgiving Weekend will be the store’s last hurrah.
The ribbon cutting for the new Bonner Bridge has been moved back to sometime in January or February next year. NCDOT had hoped to get the replacement span for the aging bridge opened by the end of this year, but a series of storm event have delayed the final touches for completing the bridge.
Structurally the new span is completed. However, there is ongoing work to finish guardrails, remove construction equipment and minor work that goes into finishing any major project.
The ribbon cutting for the new Bonner Bridge that spans Oregon Inlet has been moved back to sometime in January or February next year. NCDOT had hoped to get the replacement span for the aging bridge opened by the end of this year, but a series of storm event have delayed the final touches for completing the bridge.
Structurally the new span is completed. However, there is ongoing work to finish guardrails, remove construction equipment and minor work that goes into finishing any major project.
When the bridge does open, at first it may only be for one way traffic at a time, according to a statement from NCDOT. What will probably happen is initially traffic in one direction will use the new bridge, but the old bridge will be used for vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.
That strategy would allow the new span to be opened a little earlier, enabling the last minute steps needed to complete the bridge to be done in stages.
Groundbreaking for the new Bonner Bridge was in March of 2016, and at that time, NCDOT had hoped to have the bridge open for traffic by late fall of this year. Although they have missed that target date, for the most part, bridge construction has remained on schedule.
After the new span is completely open, work will begin on demolishing the old bridge. There will be a 1000’ fishing and observation pier left on the south or Hatteras Island side.
Demolition should be completed but the end of 2019.
The material removed during demolition will be taken to a site, cleaned and then taken to sea and used to create or expand three reefs off the Outer Banks coast.
There’s always something new and interesting happening on the Outer Banks. Book you home today at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and experience the best of life on a sandbar.
Fifteen years after its expected lifespan, the Bonner Bridge is finally about to be replaced. They placed final connecting girder on the replacement project last week and if all goes a hoped, NCDOT is planning on a December ribbon cutting for the new bridge.
The original Bonner Bridge connecting the northern Outer Banks with Hatteras island had an expected life expectancy of 40 years. Completed in 1963, the expectation was that a new bridge would be in place by 2003. But a series of vigorous environmental lawsuits—and a an originally preferred alternative that was cost prohibitive and would have made Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge virtually inaccessible—held up construction for move than a decade.
The end result is truly spectacular, towering over the original bridge, it is an engineering marvel.
The replacement bridge is only 20’, but it is so massive it seems much bigger. Whereas the current Bonner Bridge has one navigation span, the new bridge will have seven, all of them wider than the original.
But what really seems to set this project apart is the application of the science of how to build a bridge in an environment as harsh and demanding as Oregon Inlet.
To control corrosion, the rebar that is being used in the concrete girders and pilings is stainless steel, and it is the first bridge built in North Carolina that uses the material.
The pilings that have to take the greatest weight have been pounded 100’ into the seabed of Oregon Inlet. The pilings are also at a slight angle, allowing them to handle more weight. There are other innovative design techniques as well, including material that creates a stronger but lighter concrete for the girders.
The end result is a replacement span that is expected to have a 100 year lifespan.
After completing the new Bonner Bridge the old one will have to be demolished, a project that will take almost a year. Plans call for 1000’ feet on the Hatteras Island side to be retained as a fishing pier. Much of the remaining material will be cleaned and used to create fishing reefs.
The Bonner Bridge is the most visible—and arguably important—part of the project, but NCDOT has always seen NC12 from Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe as a project area.
The first bridge completed was the Richard Etheridge Bridge at New Inlet. The next bridge that will be the “Jug Handle” bypassing the S Curves north of Rodanthe.
So named because it forms a jug handle as it swings through Pamlico Sound, NCDOT expect the project to be completed in fall of 2020.
Just nine days after a construction accident cut the line carrying power to Hatteras Island and Ocracoke, repairs have been made and power is flowing again.
That is really impressive. Original estimates put the power outage at two to three weeks with the possibility of an even longer delay.
Although bad, the damage was not quite as extensive as first feared. Repairs still included splicing high voltage lines and constructing a new set of overhead lines to get the electricity out of the construction zone as much as possible.
Once the repairs were complete on Friday, limited access to Hatteras and Ocracoke was lifted and all were welcome.
During the nine days it took to repair the line, the state and Dare County worked to bring in generators to provide minimal power. However, they could not provide adequate energy to run air conditioners. Even with the auxiliary power, rolling blackouts were mandated and concern about having enough power to pump water were raised.
Because of the uncertain nature of the power, mandatory evacuations were ordered. Only residents and essential personnel were allowed in the affected areas.
All of the facts have not yet been released. It appears, however, that workers for PCL, the construction company building the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge, severed the line when they were driving a steel casing into the ground.
The casing, used to hold pilings in place during construction, was being set aside for storage, What the worker were doing, according to reports, was the equivalent of driving a shovel into the ground.
If that is borne out after all the facts are examined, it is perhaps doubly tragic because it did not have to happen. What the workers were doing had almost nothing to do with construction and could be viewed as an action designed for the worker’s convenience and perhaps a little efficiency.
The news just came out a little while ago, that Hatteras Island is being evacuated. This is a manmade catastrophe, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Mother Nature.
Early yesterday morning, PCL Construction who is building the new Bonner Bridge, was pounding a piling into the south end of Oregon Inlet.
When they cut through a power cable carrying electricity to Hatteras Island and Ocracoke the effect was immediate. All power south of Oregon Inlet was immediately lost.
Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates visitors, please note—this does not effect anything from Nags Head north, where our Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates properties are located.
But the effect on our friends on Hatteras Island and Ocracoke is dramatic and difficult to witness.
Although there are emergency generators on hand, and more are coming, they are designed to handle emergency power loads only. The generators cannot handle air conditioning and residents have been told to expect rolling blackouts.
Hyde County ordered Ocracoke evacuated yesterday, Thursday, and Dare County ordered Hatteras Island evacuated today. Governor Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency, allowing some weight restrictions to be lifted on trucks to more efficiently move supplies and more generators.
There is considerable uncertainty about how long repairs will take. Cape Hatteras Electric Coop (CHEC) who manages the power grid on Hatters Island put out a statement saying,“CHEC is working to assess the extent of the damage and plan for the repair. Assuming that the cooperative has the materials on hand, repairs could take several days to complete. If materials are not available locally, repairs could take weeks.”
The latest information is the original contractor who laid the power cable is on hand and PCL is working to excavate the site and inspect the cable.
The replacement for the Bonner Bridge has always been the big cog in the wheel to improve the transportation corridor through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Other pieces of the puzzle are coming together as well, and things are really getting busy as the road project takes shape.
The Big News
The big new coming from NCDOT is that a contract has been awarded for the Jug Handle that will bypass the S Curves. The S Curves, just north of Rodanthe has, in the past, been prone to flooding and ocean overwash.
A beach nourishment project completed last year seems to be holding the ocean back for the time being. There is, however, wide consensus that beach nourishment is a temporary fix.
The Jug Handle is aptly named; swinging west about a mile north of Rodanthe, the road will cross the marsh on the soundside and extend into Pamlico Sound coming back to NC12 just north of the Island Convenience store.
The winning bid was for $145 million. The scheduled completion date is 2020.
New Inlet Replacement Almost Complete
Opened by Hurricane Irene, the breach just north of New Inlet has been crossed by a temporary bridge since December of 2011. Although the breach filled in with a year, the area is considered unstable and prone to ocean overwash and flooding.
A more permanent replacement bridge is almost completed. NCDOT is confident it will be open by the original estimate of April of this year.
Unlike the Bonner Bridge Replacement and Jug Handle, which are projected to have 100 year life spans, the New Inlet bridge will have a 25 year lifespan while a more permanent solution is researched.
Bonner Bridge Replacement
Slated to be open for traffic in the fall of 2018, according to NCDOT the project remains on target.
NCDOT is reporting decking is being poured on areas of the bridge that are nearing completion.
Construction is moving from the north and south simultaneously. The final piece of the puzzle will be the high-rise portion of the bridge, designed with seven navigational spans to give boat traffic options the original Bonner Bridge does not.
2016 was certainly an interesting year. Most of it was really positive and and there is not doubt the Outer Banks is still the best place anywhere for a family vacation.
Some of the headlines, though, were not as pleasant as others, and a lot of those unpleasant headlines were all about the weather.
From cold-stunned turtles in January to the surprise visit from a powerful Hurricane Matthew, the weather was in the headlines on the Outer Banks.
Still, it was a good year on the Outer Bank. Here are some of the highlights…and yes, the lowlights of the weather.
Replacement for Bonner Bridge Breaks Ground
Long overdue, but at long last the replacement span for the Bonner Bridge is finally moving forward. Here’s what we wrote:
“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.”
100th Anniversary of the National Park Service-New Citizens Welcomed
With such a large presence on the Outer Banks, the centennial of the National Park Service was important. There were a number of special events in conjunction with the celebration, none more compelling than a swearing in ceremony for new citizens.
“Thirty-nine new citizens were welcomed to the Outer Banks yesterday at a swearing in ceremony at the Wright Brothers Memorial.
It was an amazing event—emotional, awe-inspiring and perhaps a little bit intimidating with the realization of what these newest Americans coming from 23 countries have gone through to follow their dream.”
Roanoke Island Aquarium Gets a Facelift
Delayed a year to get the budget for renovations in shape, the payoff was a spectacular result.
“After a false start and a couple of construction delays, the renovation of the Roanoke Island Aquarium–the Outer Banks only aquarium–is almost complete. It’s open now and even though a couple of the exhibits aren’t quite ready yet, what there is a really exciting.”
The weather for 2016 can easily summed up. When it was good it was very good. When it was bad, it was very bad
Cold Stunned Turtles Early January
“The STAR Center at the Roanoke Island Aquarium was designed as a care facility for injured and sick sea turtles, but never anything on this level. The problem, according to Christine Legner who oversees the facility, with all the warm weather, the turtles “ . . . just didn’t get the cue to leave.”
Tropical Storm Hermine
“It looks as though we have another day of high surf battering the Outer Banks as Tropical Storm Hermine spins away out in the Atlantic. All sign point to her meandering a bit and then moving out to sea, but it does look as though tomorrow, Monday, is not going to be a good beach day.”
Hurricane Matthew was an unwelcome and unpleasant surprise. We knew it was going to rain a lot; we knew the winds were going to be strong, but the Outer Banks seemed to get more than expected.