NCDOT has completed additional inspections of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, and confirmed the span which carries N.C. 12 over Oregon Inlet is in need of immediate repairs – but remains safe for the traveling public for now.
Steps are already underway to secure a contractor and begin the repair work as quickly as possible.
Routine sonar scanning of the bridge recently identified additional scouring, or areas where sand has eroded from the support structures of the bridge.
NCDOT says engineers will closely monitor the bridge and conduct weekly scans to ensure it remains safe for travel until the structure can be fortified. Should safety become a concern it would be closed to traffic.
The bridge is the only way vehicles can travel directly between Hatteras Island and the mainland. If NCDOT were required to close it, the NC Ferry Division would provide emergency support to move people and cars.
The the Ferry Division has already tested its emergency ramps at Stumpy Point and Rodanthe, and can deploy additional ferries when circumstances dictate.
The bridge, well past its design life, is scheduled for replacement, but construction start has been repeatedly delayed by lawsuits.
NCDOT tells NewsChannel 3 that they expect to award a contract for the emergency repair work this week, with actual work to start in several weeks.
Beth Midgett lives and works on Hatteras Island and has fought for a new Bonner Bridge for years.
She says it is beyond time for the legal challenges to be settled and for the new span to be built.
“We are not reinventing the wheel here. It’s something that’s already been there. The environmental impacts are known and people need to get out of the way and let the new bridge be built,” Midgett explained.
“At this point, it’s just very difficult to live knowing if you leave the island you may not get back that night,” Midgett continued. “If you put yourselves in our shoes, how would you like to live like that? This is getting impossible!”