Federal Judge Rules in Favor of NCDOT in Bonner Bridge Lawsuit Monday, September 16, 2013

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Transportation’s efforts to replace the aging Bonner Bridge took a giant step forward Monday after a federal judge ruled in its favor, denying a motion to stop the project. Federal Judge Louise Flanagan issued that ruling in a 42-page document this morning denying the Southern Environmental Law Center’s claims on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge Association that a new parallel bridge over the Oregon Inlet should not be built based on environmental concerns. The order is attached.

“This is a great day for residents and millions of visitors to the Outer Banks, and an historic day for North Carolina. We want to thank Judge Flanagan for her ruling,” said State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. “We’ve spent millions of dollars of taxpayer money keeping the existing bridge open and we know it stands on borrowed time. With this ruling, we are prepared to move as quickly as possible to replace this lifeline bridge.”

“I’m proud of the hard work and collaboration that NCDOT and multiple state and federal agencies and local leaders have done to protect this vital way,” said Governor Pat McCrory.

Next Steps
The ruling clears one of two legal hurdles the department faced in moving forward with construction of a new bridge. NCDOT is now working with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to resolve a petition at the state level stemming from a similar complaint from the SELC.
Once that petition is resolved and those permits are secured, NCDOT immediately will move forward with construction of the new bridge. The contract to build the bridge was awarded in August 2011.

NCDOT has already spent more than $56 million in necessary repairs, inspection and maintenance on the 50-year-old bridge since beginning the process to replace it more than two decades ago.
Starting next week, weather permitting, the department will begin the first of two additional repair projects on the bridge. The two projects, which total $2 million, are both scheduled to begin this fall and are necessary to keep this critical lifeline open until the department can replace it. At this time the Bonner Bridge remains safe for travel. NCDOT teams are constantly monitoring the bridge and if safety ever becomes a concern the bridge would be closed immediately.
Read more about the history of the Bonner Bridge and challenges to building a new one.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 23, NCDOT will close a one-lane section of the bridge between a half-mile and mile-long so crews with Coastal Gunite Construction Co. of Cambridge, Md. will be able to access girders and the underside of the bridge deck to make concrete repairs. As a part of this $388,910 project, crews will apply concrete patches to areas of the bridge to protect exposed steel. These areas were identified for priority maintenance during the last regular two-year inspection of the bridge that took place in 2012.
The second repair project, totaling $1.4 million, includes repairs to the supplemental supports of the bridge and is scheduled to begin later this month.
NCDOT awarded a $215.8 million contract to PCL Civil Constructors Inc. in August 2011 for the design and construction of a new bridge. Design work began immediately and construction of the new bridge was originally set to begin in early 2013.

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