On-site work to start soon on new Bonner Bridge

By on November 15, 2012

Visualization of the new bridge, looking northwest. (NCDOT)

The N.C. Department of Transportation said Thursday the first visible signs of preparations to replace the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet will begin in the coming weeks.

Despite lawsuits filed by environmental groups to further delay replacement of the 50-year-old span, construction is slated to start in early 2013.

NCDOT is moving forward with the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project, with 75 percent of the design complete, according to a news release.

Two barges loaded with materials and equipment are scheduled to start arriving from Chesapeake on Friday at Oregon Inlet, weather permitting, according to the statement.

Crews will be driving test piles, large columns positioned in the earth to support a bridge. The tests are necessary before construction can begin to verify engineering estimates of how much weight the piles can safely bear.

The process will ensure that the bridge’s design is sound and buildable, according to the statement.

Pile test device (NCDOT image).

Crews will begin constructing a temporary positioning device that will hold the piles in place during testing, which will take about two weeks.

The piles will go 110 feet deep into the earth, making them some of the deepest jetted piles along the East Coast.

Some of the test piles will be placed into the ground in the footprint of the new bridge, which is just west of the current span.

After perfecting the pile installation process, the contractor will start in early January testing how much weight the piles can handle.

Three hydraulic jacks will use force to measure each pile’s ability to support weight, ranging from 3 million pounds to 3.6 million pounds. The average bridge pile supports about 500,000 pounds.

The pile testing is scheduled to be complete by mid-January.

At that time, crews will remove the piles and the positioning device, and ship them by barge back to Virginia.

The above video was created by HDR Engineering Inc., the design firm working with PCL Civil Constructors Inc. on the bridge replacement project.

Among the features of the new bridge will be more numerous and wider navigation spans, which will allow better options for boaters as the channel through the inlet shifts around.

The former bridge will be torn down, except a short section on the south side that will become a fishing pier.

A proposal for the remains of the rest of the current bridge is to place it in portions of the Pamlico Sound and adjacent waters to create finfish and shellfish habitats.

Environmental groups continue to lobby for a 17-mile long bridge that would stretch from the tip of Bodie Island to Rodanthe village, bypassing all of Pea Island.

The NCDOT says that option is not cost effective, and instead plans to build the new Bonner Bridge as a parallel span, and address issues along N.C. 12 between the inlet and Rodanthe on a case-by-case basis.

“The work will in no way impact the NCDOT’s dedicated effort to repair, reconstruct and reopen N.C. 12 to traffic in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy and the (early-November) nor’easter,” read the statement.

During testing, the barges will not block the navigational channel in Oregon Inlet.

NCDOT advises mariners to avoid the areas where the barges are located to ensure safety. They will be marked in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard guidelines.

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November 22, 2012 9:32 am





November 21, 2012 12:24 am

Alot of bent noses from Mr. Raleigh’s comment. I have to agree with him. This is a barrier island, we seem to forget how vulnerable this wonderful place really is. One cat. 4 or 5 Hurricane and the bridge may be gone. Global warming has brought the east coast huge power packed storms recently.


November 20, 2012 6:09 pm

With the mid-Currituck bridge and the Bonner bridge replacement estimated at $600M each, how can a Stumpy Point bridge (which would be twice as long as mid-Currituck) be less? Honest question here, has a study been done?


November 20, 2012 9:57 am

Bridge from Stumpy Point will cost less than the high bridge across Oregon Inlet- no need for a high bridge across the sound, just raise it up 20 feet or so for small boat access.

When the island migrates West, just shorten the bridge a bit, that will be a 50 year solution.

Ferries are OK, but they will not sustain the current level of housing and tourism on Hatteras Island. Any money spent on the Bonner Bridge replacement is just a total throwaway, nice for the bridge contractors but a waste of scarce tax dollars.


November 20, 2012 7:30 am

BHIOBX has some very good ideas. However, the self-serving idea that Hatteras residents should get free or discounted tolls is absurd. Let’s face it – Hatteras is basically one big welfare handout to the people who live there. The island is maintained in pristine condition by the federal government park system, which is paid for by all Americans. Residents already enjoy this handout the most, so why should they then get free tolls? If anything, they should pay more since they cause most of the wear-and-tear on the island and its infrastructure. Then they want everybody else to pay for it…but not themselves?!? HA! Nice scam!! They should pay their fair share just like everybody else. Residents of Manhattan Island in NYC don’t get free bridge tolls just because they live there, right?!? C’mon Hatteras people.


November 19, 2012 6:02 pm

Bill sounds like someone who has come to grips with the reality we face. Your comment is appreciated for its clarity of the situation. Looking at what’s happening to Hatteras Island (at all ends) demonstrates that the island is in fact a dynamic landmass. A bridge is a static structure meaning that once its up we cant move it and we need to get away from “bridge brain” when considering a long term access solution. We need a dynamic solution.

A ferry system is the only logical and fiscally responsible solution and its one that can be implemented in the near term (relative to the time to construct a 17 mile bridge). Not the slow boats we have now but an upgraded fleet that will also be more energy efficient, able to navigate the shallows, and carry more vehicles. No matter the costs of the boats, they still have to be way way cheaper than any of the bridge options. Strategically place a few different land terminals in various areas, and charge a fee for the privelege of access to Hatteras Island/free or reduced for islanders and discounted for residents of Dare Cty. If the island burps up another inlet, plop another ferry terminal in.

The ECU Professor most familiar with these Outer Banks expects HI to be a chain of 7 islands in our lifetime. Boats are best. And spending 1.3b dollars with that geologic forecast is not being reasonable not to mention fiscally responsible.

Plus when the wind blows/seas rise the long bridge will be shut down. Imagine a July Saturday when some car has a breakdown mid-span, with cleaners, contractors, food trucks, lined up for miles…its going to be a nightmare. However a nice ferry ride over is a great way to start/end a great vacation. Just saying.

Beach Bouy

November 19, 2012 5:47 pm

Fear not. After sinking millions of dollars into the new bridge, we can then begin spending millions more replenishing the beach at Pea Island to keep Hwy 12 from washing away.

Personally, I think the county needs to invest in a massive sand fence campaign. Sand fences work, and they’re cheaper than a sand-sucking dredge.


November 19, 2012 11:46 am

Yes, this new bridge will be a “bridge to nowhere” or at least a “raging river” on Pea Island. As others have mentioned, a sound side full length bridge is now needed as its obvious that the current NC 12 though Pea Island is no longer viable for long term use. The constant battle to maintain the road will end up costing as much if not more to build the long bridge over a 15 yr time period. I used to be against the long bridge plan, but now my mind has changed. Pea Island should be left for the ocean and the birds with perhaps permitted ORV that is not maintained. The long bridge could likely also have one or two off ramp parking/rec areas soundside.

All in all, the given the experiences on Rt 12 over the past 5 years and evidence of both erosion, island change, and climate change/sea rise, Rt 12 on Pea Island should simply become a relic of our past.


November 19, 2012 9:50 am

Those days are gone and will never come back. I think it sucks too! Thank your local neighbors for selling their land for the almighty dollar, they ruined your home not a road! you should also stay south and not eat at Outback and shop at Walmart. I’m just saying…


November 18, 2012 8:33 pm

Build the new bridge from Stumpy Point to Rodanthe- skip Pea Island altogether. That would eliminate the traffic nightmare of Kitty Hawk for those of us traveling to Hatteras Island.

Replacing the Bonner Bridge is a total loser, just a “Bridge to Nowhere”, maybe the Palin thing will come to check it out, the half-term quitter likes bridges to nowhere.


November 18, 2012 2:49 pm

Jersey Transplant, the Dare & Currituck property tax rates are among the lowest in the state–I think Currituck is the lowest (the Dare county rate is lower, but the towns & special districts get us mostly over Currituck).

See here:


Maybe you were referring to insurance rates? Those won’t go up 30%, that was just the initial bargaining position of the insurance companies. That will get chopped down to a smaller number–still probably low double digits–that the insurance companies knew they’d get all along.

As for the revaluation, the revenue neutral rate will likely drop taxes oceanfront and increase them soundside. I’d guess that will be a net reduction for Hatteras.

Jersey Transplant

November 18, 2012 9:12 am

Replacing the bridge as planned is a waste of time and money, as it is merely a bandaid on an open wound. Either build the 17 mile bridge, one from Stumpy Point to Rodanthe, or smaller bridges over the hot spots on Route 12. To the Raleigh Taxpayer: Not everyone who lives on Hatteras is a bum. I’m sure there is plenty of “trash” in Raleigh as well. Last time I checked, this was stillthe USA and people have the freedom to live where they wish in peace and reasonable comfort–not depending on a road that is not dependable and ferry service that takes a full day for a round trip. Dare County is ranked third in the State for revenue brought in–via tourism. If the visitors can’t get here or are afraid to come here, you will suffer just like the rest of us. Also the property owners in Dare and Currituck pay a higher rate of taxes than the rest of the State and this already high rate is going up 30% next year. So much for us not paying our way.

Native Son

November 18, 2012 8:20 am

The road was there long before the National Park Service got the land and gave the land that is Pea IslandNWR to USFW,hence the remnants of the New Inlet Bridge,1933.Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area was authorized in 1937,but was’nt established until 1953 and dedicated in 1958.NCDOT should own the road by prior possession.As for refuges not allowing roads,why did the Alligator River NWR and Pocosin Lakes NWR spend 7 million plus of the taxpayer’s money putting rock roads through miles of wilderness,so nice that the have speed limits?

Freezer Full of Shrimp

November 18, 2012 8:08 am

It’s blowing 40+ MPH North East right at this moment, and Mirlo Inlet is a raging river.

Just wondering how well the powerlines in that area are holding up??

Salvo duck hinter

November 18, 2012 7:36 am

That is something a lot of us have thought about. I think what some of us found compelling about HI in the 60′s would still be here if the road had never been paved and small ferries spanned any new inlets.
Maybe it will come back to that as the coastline continues to claim itself and a different economic model emerges.
A lot of us moved here and stayed here not for economic opportunities but for a love of the land and water.

Creedmoor Transplant

November 17, 2012 6:18 pm

Raleigh TaxPayer – I totally resent your remarks about Hatteras Island Residents. I grew up in Hatteras and Ocracoke and my whole Family (Midgetts) live in Dare County. I’m very curious where you get your ideas that everyone is on welfare and supported by the government. You could be no more wrong than anything in the world. You really should get your facts straight before speaking out of your Arse!

Hoi Toid

November 17, 2012 5:16 pm

Duh, I know that Dare does not bring in what Raleigh,Greensboro or Charlotte will bring in for taxes. But I am sure that Mr. Raleigh probably goes to Myrtle Beach for vacation during the summer. The NCDOT has built completed 4 lane roads heading to those beaches but not to the Outer Banks.


November 17, 2012 2:35 pm

Travel between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe used to be a sand path and it worked great for many years with little or no maintenance. It was much better than the pavement route of today. The easy access is what ruined Hatteras Island.
Pavement is a lost cause.The 4×4 route works great. Timing travels to the tides is a way of life here.
A sand path and a ferry is all we need to settle into a promising lifestyle here. A


November 17, 2012 12:40 pm

Based on OBXCC & Dare County tax figures the Hatteras economy is about $300M annually. Figure the state gets roughly a 5% cut either from income or sales taxes, that’s $15M of state tax per year.

That’s clearly not more than a big city; Wake County has 1M residents and per capita income of $27K, that’s a $27B economy, or 90 times the size of Hatteras (over 20 times the size of Dare in total).

The issue is how much state spending is for each jurisdiction vs. taxes imposed. Whether a new bridge or long bridge is thus worthwhile, I’ll be like that economist in the Coastland Times and let you decide.

Thinking of future

November 17, 2012 6:52 am

If we are spending all this money on the bridge it needs to have a bike and pedestrian path! The Ravenel bridge in charleston sc almost didn’t put one in because of the cost, now that is a main attraction to the area and the wish they had made a bigger one. We are a tourism based community and having access safely to pea island by bike would make us a bike friendly community! Cyclists and there families spend a lot of money at the beach we want that kind of tourism,


November 17, 2012 12:44 am

To Raleigh Taxpayer – Who are you to judge? I know many people who live down in Rodanathe and Hatteras Island and they do not live off of welfare. They have their own businesses and jobs which is why they continue to live there. You do not live on the Outer Banks so do not judge others who do. Keep you aopinions to the Raleigh area. WE are hard working people here. And by the way we can not even get welfare here!

OBX Resident

November 16, 2012 11:31 pm

Build the bridge from Stumpy Point to Rodanthe. Same distance, avoids the refuge, minimizes impacts to shellfish beds and aquatic vegetation, and other issues. 10 years from now we are still going to be talking about building the bridge. Democratic control for all these years, allowing far left enviro freaks to have a strong voice has gotten us to where we are today. And if you think nc 12 is going to be open by thanksgiving, I have a square grouper for you.

Hoi Toid

November 16, 2012 9:47 pm

Dear Mr. Raleigh Taxpayer, I bet the new Sheriff will still take our tourist sales tax money that Dare County sends to Raleigh.


November 16, 2012 9:16 pm

the people that live down their are tax payers also the outer banks brings in more revenue to NC that you thank more than alot of big cities if people cant go their NC will lose alot of money. The main reason it is so nice down their is because of the locals they are the ones that keep it clean and care about the wild live because the land was giving to the goverment by land owners so that we can go their and enjoy how wonderful it is if you have never been their you have no idea its got to be what heven is like

Raleigh taxpayer

November 16, 2012 6:49 pm

At a time when NC is in need of so much infrastructure improvement, I can think of so many other municipalities, with much larger populations (read taxpayers), that need this money much more than a couple thousand people who spend half the year on welfare so they can live on a disappearing stretch of sand. You people definitely have the squeaky wheel thing down pat. If you want to live there, buy a boat. It shouldn’t be the environmental groups killing this bridge, it should be the taxpayers of North Carolina who stand up and (like Alaskans) say we don’t need a bridge to nowhere. At the rate things are going, that bridge will end up needing a diving board at the south end in the next 20 yrs. We’ve got some new leaders in Raleigh now, new Sheriff in town so to say, I look for this boondoggle to go away soon.


November 16, 2012 5:43 pm

To Tuber1der:

You must not have been here very long, can you tell me how long that marsh has been there on the North side? Or better yet, can you tell me where the channel used to be, I bet not from that statement.

Read up on some history, that marsh is there because of man, not nature.


November 16, 2012 4:07 pm

What’s happening at the Fishing Center?That part of the visualization is vague.

More Common Sense

November 16, 2012 3:57 pm

When you add up the costs of bridging the “hotspots” on Pea Island and add the cost of the short bridge, the price tage is the same as if they were to build the long bridge. Also, how many bridges/elevated causeways have you ever seen in the surf zone, which is exactly what will happen at the hotspots down the road.


November 16, 2012 2:30 pm

I hate to disagree with “common sense,” but. . . when has NC 12 in Pea Island been “moved back from the ocean a little more”? The only real shift in the road that I recall is S-curves in the vicinity of the new inlet (which proves the point that moving the road back from the beach won’t work). Take away all the “those meddling environmentalists” rancor and you’ve still got a fundamental issue with long-term access to Rodanthe and points south. The new bridge is a kick-the-can-down-the-road solution. The cost to build the longer bridge today pales in comparison to the cost in 20 years (or sooner, at the current pace of erosion) when the longer bridge inevitably will have to be built. Make it a toll bridge. Consider it the cost for visiting/living/building on a migrating sandbar.


November 16, 2012 2:15 pm

Pea Island is designated a ‘Wildlife Refuge’ and that title gives it special protection-limitations. Generally a refuge does not allow highways or roads.
As long as it remains ‘wildlife refuge’ forget about moving the road or keeping it open.


November 16, 2012 1:26 pm

These guys dont think about the issues with a 17 mile long bridge. One bad accident on that bridge, or high winds and we are completely cut off. Maintenance cost will be half the cost it takes to build it. Lets move forward by moving the road west in spots, and at S-curves elevate the road and we will not be dealing with any issues for the next 20 – 30 years.

common sense

November 16, 2012 10:52 am

A lot of the problem with the road south of the inlet is that in places it just needs to be moved back from the ocean a little more, as has been done many times over the years. The problem is the environmental wackos who don’t want to allow that to happen. If they want a 17 mile bridge so badly, then perhaps they need to come up with the funds to pursue that route.

I think what amazes me most is they don’t want the road going through the refuge because it will somehow supposedly damage things. How about the damage caused by tearing up 17 miles worth of wetland habitat??? Never mind the fact that folks will no longer be able to enjoy the refuge as they drive through it. Oh wait, that’s right, they don’t want any people around!

The current bridge was built in 1963 and has lasted way past how long it was originally intended to last. Yes, I’m sure it does all need to be replaced…probably ultimately cheaper than constant repairs on the old one.

Glad to see progress finally being made…I’m amazed that the environmental groups have been able to hold the public hostage over this thing for so long…and this is assuming they don’t manage to come up with some other way to try to stall or stop it!

Arthur Deschenes

November 16, 2012 10:48 am

When I was stationed at the old CG Station we had chunks of concret fall from the middle stran. That was back in the late 70′s and early 80′s. Yes it in need to be replaced. The channel under it has always been to narrow especial durning a bad storm. I say it is about time.


November 16, 2012 10:19 am

To understand why this new bridge offers only short term gain and long term pain, freeze the video above at 0:43. Note how the bridge makes a beeline toward the eroding/migrating shoreline. Pea Island is going to continuing doing what is has done, which is migrate to the southwest. Do you truly believe that NC 12 is sustainable through Pea Island beyond 10-20 years? If past is prologue, this bridge is a temporary band-aid at best. Environmental issues aside, the longer-bridge is worth the investment if you want unfettered access to Rodanthe and points south beyond 2020 (like I do).


November 16, 2012 9:03 am

Is it really necessary that they replace the entire thing??? Seems like a boondoggle for some contracting firm.
The entire northern half of the bridge that goes over the marsh has not been subjected to the erosion and currents of the high span. Seems like they could just branch off from the existing structure as it approaches the inlet, and then build a new overwater span and save a TON of money. My understanding is the dangerous part of the bridge is only the part that actually spans the inlet.


November 16, 2012 7:56 am


tri village resident

November 16, 2012 7:44 am

so is there an estimated start date for construction

Jason M

November 16, 2012 7:25 am

Wow, so if it’s up to the environmentalists, I will never be able to surf my favorite surf spot again! I can’t imagine how much money a 17 mile bridge would cost the taxpayers.


November 16, 2012 7:12 am

A new bridge will be one of the final chapters of Hatteras freedom. Privatization is the next step and no locals will be able to stay.
Let’s hope that the groin can be removed from Oregon Inlet. It’s caused to much trouble.

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