HATTERAS, N.C. - A crumbling bridge is getting much needed repairs. Monday the North Carolina Department of Transportation started work on the Bonner Bridge in the Outer Banks.
One lane will be closed in that area as soon as Tuesday. It’s part of a bigger project that needs to happen to replace the whole bridge.
The NCDOT has been tied up in legal issues with the Southern Environmental Law Center. The department won a case in federal court last week. But, there’s more the NCDOT needs to figure out on a state level before the Bonner Bridge can be replaced. Until then, maintenance and repairs will continue.
Jason Heilig is one resident and Hatteras Island business owner that is looking forward to the day a new bridge is built. He owns Rodanthe Surf Shop, one of the first businesses drivers see as they enter Rodanthe from the Bonner Bridge.
“I do have the thought many times driving over the bridge,” said Heilig. “Knowing the condition that it’s in, you know, the ‘what if.’ The hypothetical situations; it’s a little scary.”
Many business owners like Heilig call Bonner Bridge the lifeline to Hatteras Island because it connects the island to the rest of the Outer Banks.
“It’s something that we desperately need, to go ahead and get the problems of this bridge rectified,” said Ryan White, who owns Hatteras Jack Tackle Shop.
NCDOT spokesman, Mike Charbonneau said, “We know the bridge needs to be replaced. But, until we can move forward and replace that bridge, we have to do the necessary maintenance and safety work on it to be able to keep the existing bridge open.”
For example, last week a four foot concrete slab fell off the bottom of the bridge. While the NCDOT says the Bonner Bridge is safe to drive on, that’s cause for concern.
“It highlights, again, the fact that this is an aging bridge,” said Charbonneau. “It’s lived beyond its life cycle.”
Charbonneau says the maintenance work starting Monday will cost almost $400,000. A second project starting later in September will run the department $1.4 million. However, the NCDOT has already spent $56 million on inspection and repairs in the last two decades. Charbonneau says the department will keep spending money on maintenance until the bridge can be replaced.
As Heilig says, Hatteras Island residents are used to it.
“Unfortunately, we’ve kind of gotten accustomed to one lane being closed," he said.
Heilig says he isn’t too concerned about road work and lane closures.
“If that’s the case, I’ll know at least we’re making progress," he said.
Current lane closures on the Bonner Bridge will happen Monday through Friday during daylight hours, according to the NCDOT. They will go on through the end of the year.
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