Emergency declaration issued for Bonner Bridge - WNCN: News, Weather

Emergency declaration issued for Bonner Bridge

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The Bonner Bridge is a 2.5-mile span over the Oregon Inlet to Hatteras Island that connects as many as 13,000 vehicles with a road to the mainland. The Bonner Bridge is a 2.5-mile span over the Oregon Inlet to Hatteras Island that connects as many as 13,000 vehicles with a road to the mainland.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

North Carolina's governor declared an emergency Thursday at the Bonner Bridge, which state officials have closed because they say it's unsafe.

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for the bridge and the emergency ferry terminals at Stumpy Point and Rodanthe. The declaration puts Frank Perry, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety, in charge of managing the emergency and directs Perry to seek reimbursement from the federal government for the costs.

The declaration will speed repairs because the state will not have to get the permits that it normally would, DPS spokeswoman Julia Jarema said. It also allows the state to seek federal assistance and assets, such as advice or equipment from the Army Corps of Engineers, she said.

The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $1.6 million contract to Carolina Bridge Company Inc. of Orangeburg, S.C., for the bridge repairs. NCDOT and the contractor are working together to determine when the repairs will be completed.

The Bonner Bridge is the only road access for vehicles between Hatteras Island and the mainland. DOT began operating an emergency ferry route between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe with limited service Tuesday night.

When it was built in 1963, the bridge was designed to last 30 years. DOT began the process of trying to replace the Bonner Bridge in 1989 and awarded a contract of almost $216 million in 2011 for construction of a parallel span that was set to begin earlier this year.

But legal challenges have delayed its construction. In September, a federal judge approved plans for a parallel span to replace the 50-year-old bridge, rejecting the objections of environmentalists who support a 17-mile bridge over the Pamlico Sound with an estimated price tag of $1.1 billion.

The Southern Environmental Law Center appealed the judge's decision, arguing that a parallel bridge to connect to N.C. Highway 12 on Hatteras Island ignores washouts and breaches on the coastal road.

The state closed the bridge Monday after learning the Oregon Inlet has scoured out sand around the base of supports at the southern end. DOT said reopening the bridge will require fortifying the bridge's support columns and bringing in additional sand.

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