SELC Action Further Delays NCDOT’s Ability to Replace the Critical Bonner Bridge Tuesday, October 01, 2013

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Transportation learned Tuesday that the Southern Environmental Law Center appealed a federal judge’s ruling that would allow construction to begin on the Bonner Bridge replacement project. The appeal will mean further delay in building a parallel bridge to replace the current bridge, which is already well beyond its expected 30 year lifecycle and in constant need of repair and maintenance to keep it safe for travel.

“The additional stall tactics of the SELC continue to put a strain on taxpayer money and our ability to keep this vital lifeline open for the people of eastern North Carolina and the millions of visitors who travel to the area each year,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “As the federal judge’s ruling confirmed last month, NCDOT cares about the economy, the environmental impact, and the people in all that we do.”

As the department has stated before, the Bonner Bridge stands on borrowed time and is one storm or incident away from having to close permanently.

On Sept. 16, NCDOT received a favorable ruling in the federal lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge Association when Judge Louise Flanagan issued a 42-page order denying all claims that NCDOT violated federal law when the department studied and selected the parallel bridge. 

On Sept. 27, Judge Julian Mann III issued an order allowing NCDOT to intervene in the state action filed by the SELC, on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge Association, against the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Coastal Management for issuing the permit to NCDOT. Legal staff is working to resolve the state action as quickly as possible.

The documents relating to the state action as well as the federal ruling are available on the Bonner Bridge Replacement webpage.

Next Steps

Once the CAMA permit challenge and the federal appeal are resolved, NCDOT immediately will move forward with construction of the new bridge. NCDOT awarded a contract to a design-build team to replace the bridge in August 2011.  Design work began immediately and construction of the replacement bridge was originally set to begin in early 2013.

Background

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. 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. Two additional repair projects on the Bonner Bridge, which total $2 million, and are needed to keep this critical transportation corridor open, will start this fall.

Read more about the history of the Bonner Bridge and challenges to building a new one.

A $388,910 concrete repair project began last month. As part of the 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. Work on that project will begin in the next few weeks.

***NCDOT***

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