17 September 2013
A US federal judge has ruled in favour of North Carolina Department of Transportation’s efforts to replace the ageing Bonner Bridge.
“This is a great day for residents and millions of visitors to the Outer Banks, and an historic day for North Carolina,” 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.”
The judge denied a motion that had cited environmental grounds in a bid to stop construction of a new parallel bridge over the Oregon Inlet. Opponents to the bridge had instead been seeking an alternative alignment that would require a 27km bridge instead of the current route’s 4km.
The lawsuit and a similar case at state level have delayed the start of the project. A US$215 million contract to design and build the bridge was awarded more than two years ago to PCL Civil Constructors (link opens in new tab). Design work began immediately and construction was originally set to begin early this year.
The ruling clears one of two legal hurdles the department faced in moving forward with construction of a new bridge. North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is now working with the North Carolina Department of Environment & Natural Resources to resolve a petition at the state level stemming from a similar complaint.
NCDOT has already spent more than US$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.