The new Bonner Bridge could be open to traffic by the end of the year. The state Department of Transportation says the project to replace the existing span that connects Hatteras Island to the northern Outer Banks is 88 percent complete.
The new structure is higher and wider than the existing bridge, expanding the amount of space for boats to pass underneath, according to Project Engineer Pablo Hernandez.
"Because of the dynamic nature of Oregon Inlet, that gives a lot of flexibility to the Corps of Engineers on how to line the channel up with the bridge," Hernandez said.
Once the new bridge is complete, the old bridge will be dismantled and its parts used in artificial reefs.
Hernandez said construction reached a huge milestone when piling for the new bridge was completed in May. He said piling was driven as deep as 120 feet below sea level to protect against sand erosion, or "scour."
"So that we do not lose integrity of the bridge and do not have to close the bridge like we did on the existing Bonner Bridge back in December 2013,” he said.
The bridge was shut down for a few weeks back in 2013 after sonar scans detected too much sand erosion around the span's support structure.
Hernandez said the new structure will also feature wider lanes and an 8-foot shoulder.
"Such that those people that are hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail or biking on the scenic by-way of NC 12, it'll be much safer for them,” he said.
DOT officials hope the new bridge will be open to traffic by the end of the year.