The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge is old— 52 years old, to be exact. Since 1963, the aging Bonner Bridge has connected the Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe in Dare Co. and served as a link from Hatteras Island to the mainland. After years of repairs and legal tangles, the bridge is now being replaced by a new parallel bridge.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and other state and environmental groups reached an agreement Monday with environmental groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) to replace Bonner Bridge. NCDOT will also look to move other vulnerable spots on N.C. Highway 12 out of the southern half of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and into Pamlico Sound.
"We are pleased that NCDOT and its partner agencies will consider additional options for N.C. 12 that will provide safe, reliable transportation by avoiding the areas where erosion and washouts shut down the road in its current location," Julie Youngman, senior attorney with the SELC, said in a statement. "This is a win-win for the Refuge and everyone who relies on N.C. 12."
In 2013, NCDOT planned to build a replacement bridge next to Bonner Bridge, but SELC sued claiming the new bridge would have harmed coastal wildlife habitats.
NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata said this agreement will best serve the interests of North Carolinians.
"The settlement agreement will allow NCDOT to provide a safe and reliable bridge for thousands of residents who rely on this lifeline to get to work, school, and healthcare and for millions of visitors who travel to the Outer Banks every year," Tata said.
Below is a map outline of SELC's proposal for the bridge replacement project: