Marc Basnight Bridge Over Oregon Inlet Dedicated

Dedication plaque from the Bonner Bridge, removed from bridge for the Marc Basnight Bridge ribbon cutting.
Dedication plaque from the Bonner Bridge, removed from bridge for the Marc Basnight Bridge ribbon cutting.

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.

Thinking of an Outer Banks vacations. Think Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates.

New Oregon Inlet Bridge Opens-Bonner Bridge Officially Closed

Wider, stronger and better constructed, the replacement for the Bonner Bridge is now open. Photo NCDOT
Wider, stronger and better constructed, the replacement for the Bonner Bridge is now open. Photo NCDOT

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.

Lots of great events are coming up in March. Come stay with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates for a while.

Walkers, Bikers Cross Bonner Bridge Replacement

Looking down at the Oregon Inlet channel through the Bonner Bridge from the replacement span.
Looking down at the Oregon Inlet channel through the Bonner Bridge from the replacement span.

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.

Have you booked your summer vacation home? Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates has the finest homes in the best locations.

New Bonner Bridge Opening Delayed by Weather

Although structurally complete, there is still work to be done on the Bonner Bridge before its early 2019 opening.
Although structurally complete, there is still work to be done on the Bonner Bridge before its early 2019 opening.

Fall Storms Create Construction Delays

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.

Last Girder Placed in Bonner Bridge Replacement Span

The last girder is place in the replacement span of the Bonner Bridge. Photo, WUNC
The last girder is place in the replacement span of the Bonner Bridge. Photo, WUNC

NCDOT Predicts a December Opening

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.

Fall is a great time to visit the Outer Banks. Check out our Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates listing and see what’s available.

Hatteras Power Blackout-Northern Beaches Unaffected

Digging for the severed cable at the south end of the Bonner Bridge construction zone. Photo, Outer Banks Voice.
Digging for the severed cable at the south end of the Bonner Bridge construction zone. Photo, Outer Banks Voice.

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.

What Happened?

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.

Evacuations Ordered

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.

Bonner Bridge Replacement Update

Artist's rendering of the Jug Handle, Bonner Bridge project.
Artist’s rendering of the Jug Handle, Bonner Bridge project.

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

Pouring decking on the Bonner Bridge in January.
Pouring decking on the Bonner Bridge in January.

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.

Seals Return to Outer Banks Beaches

Seal on the beach in Nags Head.
Seal on the beach in Nags Head.

Yes, that is a seal on the Nags Head beach.

There’s not a lot of them, but surprisingly, every winter a few seal do stop by the Outer Banks. For the most part they’re harbor seals, although an occasional gray seal is also spotted.

They seem to be following colder ocean water temperatures, as a 2015 Cape Hatteras National Seashore study noted.

“When ocean temperatures plummet during the winter and spring months, seal sightings are a common occurrence. Coming from the north, the seals migrate along the Outer Banks coast following the colder water while feeding.”  (Marine Mammal 2015 Summary)

When seen on the beach, they are usually resting. It’s almost unheard of for a colony to take up residence along an exposed beach on the Outer Banks.

During the winter months, however, there are small colonies that inhabit some of the islands in Outer Banks sounds, especially Pamlico Sound.

About a half mile south of Oregon Inlet, Green Island is a wetlands patch of grass and sand that seem to be a favorite resting spot of seals. The 2015 Summary pointed to Green Island as a particularly good good belle weather for seal activity.

“Historically, the south end of Green Island has been used by Harbor seals as a haul-out site for consecutive years, therefore a sighting doesn’t necessarily imply one individual; the most observed at one time in 2015 was 2 but up to 33 seals have previously been observed,” the study’s authors wrote.

There are concerns that construction noise and activity as the new Bonner Bridge is being built will scare seals away, but there is some uncertainty about that.

Although a seal on the beach may look cute, it is important to leave it alone. It is Federally protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act so approaching it is illegal. Beyond that, seals are wild animals and they weigh 200-250 pounds.

If there is concern that the seal is injured or sick,  contact N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) at 252.441.8622.

Outer Banks Sites for Soundside Fishing

Whalehed Club boat basin. A great place to take kids fishing.
Whalehed Club boat basin. A great place to take kids fishing.

Fall is fishing time on the Outer Banks. The surf and pier fishing has really picked up, there’s lots and lots of tournaments scheduled for the season and offshore has been reporting a banner year.

Not everyone, though, is wants to fish the ocean, so we checked with some local fisherman about some great locations to fish on the sounds.

WHALEHEAD CLUB BOAT BASIN

A protected spot, and there are some surprises here. Flounder have been caught in the basin—surprising because the water there is mostly fresh. Also look for big mouth bass. A great location for kids.

Little Bridge, Manteo Causeway

One of the most popular places around. There’s usually something biting. Rumor has it a great trout hole lives on the south side.

Roanoke Island, South of Washington Baum Bridge Boat Ramp

At the end of the Ramp there’s a dock built by NC Marine Fisheries and locals swear by it. Rock fish seem to really like the waters there, and spot are very common.

If crossing the Washington Baum Bridge, turn left at the light at Pirates Cove.

South Side of Oregon Inlet

A great place to take kids and it’s almost ocean fishing. Just on the south side of the Bonner Bridge, there’s parking with an easy trail that leads to a shallow lagoon or small bay. The bay is very sheltered and is a great place for kids to learn how to fish.

Groundbreaking for Much Delayed Bonner Replacement

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Bob Woodard, Chair Dare County Commissioners; Nicholas Tennyson, Secretary NCDOT; Governor Pat McCrory; Queen Elizabeth; Shelley Blake, NCDOT lead counsel; Representative Walter Jones; Malcolm Fearing.

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.