RALEIGH — Starting next week, weather permitting, the N.C. Department of Transportation will begin the first of two additional repair projects on the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on N.C.12 over the Oregon Inlet in Dare County. The two projects, which total $2 million, are both scheduled to begin this fall. Additionally, crews will be conducting surveys of the bridge as part of the department’s proactive monitoring plan.
The work is necessary to keep this critical lifeline open until the department can replace the 50-year-old bridge, which is Hatteras Island’s only highway connection to the mainland. NCDOT has already spent more than $56 million in necessary repairs, inspection, and maintenance on the bridge.
Earlier this week a four-foot-long piece of concrete fell from underneath the bridge in one of the areas that will be repaired. 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.
“As our team begins more repair work to keep the existing bridge safe, that piece of concrete falling is another reminder of our critical need to replace the bridge,” said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. “We appreciate Judge Flanagan’s detailed and thoughtful decision this week, recognizing that NCDOT cares about the economy, environmental impact, and the people in all that we do. With this ruling, we hope to move as quickly as possible to build a new bridge.”
On Monday, Federal Judge Louise Flanagan ruled in favor of NCDOT in the Bonner Bridge lawsuit, clearing 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.
NCDOT awarded a $215.8 million contract to PCL Civil Constructors Inc. in July 2011 for the design and construction of a new bridge. Design work began immediately and construction of the new bridge was set to begin in early 2013, but the two lawsuits filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, delayed the project.
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, can 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.
Lane closures will only be in place for this project Monday through Friday during daylight hours through the end of the year. Portable traffic signals and/or flag crews will be used to control traffic. The exact location of the lane closure will move as crews make repairs along the bridge. No closures will be in place during weekends, and should a hurricane or other severe storm be forecast to the hit the area, crews will stop work and reopen the entire bridge to traffic.
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.
To further monitor safety on the bridge, additional survey work will begin next week. Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 25, traffic will be halted on both sides of the bridge for about 5-10 minutes to allow for a mobile scan of the top of the bridge deck. It is necessary to stop traffic to eliminate shadows from other vehicles during the scan. GPS points along the bridge deck will then be surveyed and an underwater sonar scan will then take place. Both of these surveys will be conducted using the lane closure already in place for the concrete repair work. The surveys are used to determine if any proactive steps need to be taken to ensure the safety of the bridge. A previous underwater sonar survey helped determine the need for repairs to the supplemental supports that will begin later this month.
Motorists are reminded to use caution while traveling through the construction zone and to expect some delays. NCDOT reminds motorists to watch signs for construction information, stay alert and obey the posted speed limit.
For real-time travel information at any time, call 511, visit www.ncdot.gov/travel or follow NCDOT on Twitter at www.ncdot.gov/travel/twitter. Another option is NCDOT Mobile, a phone-friendly version of the NCDOT website. To access it, type “m.ncdot.gov” into the browser of your smartphone. Then, bookmark it to save for future reference. NCDOT Mobile is compatible with the iPhone, Android and some newer Blackberry phones.