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Bonner Bridge repair work delayed, replacement project still on schedule

Repair work that was scheduled to start Tuesday on the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which connects Hatteras Island to the mainland, was delayed a day or two while the contractor finishes getting everything ready.

Once it starts, crews will fortify the bridge against sand erosion by having divers place sand bags and rocks on the inlet floor.

“The contractor will have certified divers that are experienced in working in very swift water and also in heavy construction,” said Pablo Hernandez, resident engineer with the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation.

They’ll also be installing a supplemental concrete support structure.

Although the bridge, built in 1963, is about 20 years past its original lifespan, Hernandez says all the repair work they’ve done has ensured that it’s still safe.

“In my view, the bridge is probably in as good a condition as it’s been since it was first built,” said Hernandez.

The repair work isn’t a permanent solution, though; there are plans in place to build a new bridge just to the west of the existing one.

A contract for the new bridge was awarded about a year ago.

“We’re just a little bit over halfway in the design process, part of the design process involves acquiring the various environmental permits so that we can build the structure,” said Hernandez.

They received one last week and expect to get the rest within three or four months.

There is still one big roadblock that could keep the project from moving forward, though, a pending lawsuit.

A little over a year ago, some environmental groups filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

According to an NCDOT spokeswoman, at this point, both sides are submitting and responding to a series of briefs.

That should be completed by Thanksgiving.  The judge will then make a decision about what happens.

If the judge rules in favor of the Department of Transportation, work will begin early next year and open to bridge traffic in 2015.

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