Dare County

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US Fish and Wildlife/Bonner Bridge

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An Islanders Perspective

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Most current news is at the top of the page.
NC legislators endorse the new Preferred Alternative

Island Free Press encourages residents and visitors to make comments next week

DOT Response to SELC Letter

Click here to view letter.
Re: Replacement of Bonner Bridge - Southern Environmental Law Center

Click here to view letter.
DOT wants to revist NC 12 road replacement

Click here to view article in .pdf format
Dear Residents of the Outer Banks:

RALEIGH 27601-2808
May 5, 2009
Dear Residents of the Outer Banks:
I write to you today to update you on the status of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge
replacement. After several years of pressure made possible by your support and
diligence, I can report that the replacement is closer than ever to becoming a reality. As I
have repeatedly told the federal government, replacement is critical not only from a
public safety standpoint, but also from an economic one.
As you know, the Bonner Bridge serves as a critical escape route during
hurricanes as the only vehicle connector between the northern Outer Banks and Hatteras
Island. Each day, 5,000 cars cross the bridge – and that number more than doubles in the
summertime. Annually more than 3 million people visit Hatteras Island. When it was
originally built in 1963, the bridge had a life expectancy of 30 years and is rated as
“poor” by the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS). For the safety of local
residents and visitors alike—and for the sake of our tourist economy--this bridge must be
replaced as soon as possible.
Here is where the project stands right now: In 2006, the federal government
endorsed North Carolina’s proposal for the replacement bridge to be built in
approximately the same spot where the current bridge crosses Oregon Inlet, balancing
safety and environmental issues without disrupting the Pea Island National Wildlife
Refuge. Phase II of the project calls for elevated bridges along the areas of N.C. 12 that
are vulnerable to washouts. In the fall of 2008 – after an extensive examination of
environmental impacts and the development of design and engineering documents – the
State of North Carolina along with U.S. Federal Highway Administration signed the Final
Environmental Impact Statement.
State and federal agencies had originally planned to have the Record of Decision
(ROD), the final planning document, signed by the end of 2008. The document was
signed by the State in December but is still waiting the approval of the U.S. Federal
Highway Administration, which has been an active partner in this project for years. The
contract cannot be let until Federal Highways signs the Record of Decision. I contacted
the North Carolina Department of Transportation and have been informed that the ROD
has been pushed back to October 2009 at the latest. I am told that the extended date is
due to new deeds that were discovered by the North Carolina Attorney General’s office.
The new approach will save money, reduce bridging, reduce the chances of a lawsuit and
Page 2
May 5, 2009
lessen the impact on historic property. NC DOT anticipates that the contract to build the
bridge can be let in February 2010. Funds have been set aside in the Transportation
Improvement Program for the Bonner Bridge replacement.
Replacing the Bonner Bridge is of the utmost importance for the safety of the
public and for the strength of our economy.
Marc Basnight
Unearthed deeds clear path for Bonner Bridge project

By Catherine Kozak
The Virginian-Pilot
May 3, 2009
The discovery of two old deeds will allow the state Department of Transportation to save $300 million on a replacement for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.

The deeds apparently let the department get around right-of-way issues, which have been a major impediment to construction, through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The bridge will no longer have to stay within an established corridor through Pea Island.

"Those deeds gave us the right of way any time in the future for transportation in perpetuity," said Jim Trogdon, NCDOT''s chief operating officer, on Friday.

"That changed the interpretation that we were forced to stay in the original right of way, which is the principle that we''ve been operating under since 2005- 06."

Unearthed from the archives of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the 1953 and 1958 deeds changed the course of the planning for the prolonged project once again. It also delayed the project at least nine more months.

"Now we''re not constrained," Trogdon said. "Our preferred alternative is not to stay within the original right of way."

Instead of a "phased approach" that would build a 2.7-mile bridge over the inlet first, followed in stages by a series of small bridges on N.C. 12 to Rodanthe, the chosen alternative, Trogdon said, is now "Road North/Bridge South." That plan replaces the bridge parallel to the existing span and places the road from the south part of the refuge to the north end of Rodanthe on a bridge.

Trogdon said that before signing off on the phased approach late last year, the Federal Highway Administration asked to see the deed modification to support the part of the plan dealing with the right of way. That prompted the state attorney general''s office to look in the UNC-Chapel Hill archives.

With the new information, NCDOT is no longer at the mercy of the approval of the refuge manager. The concern over lawsuits is also decreased.

Started in 1990, the replacement bridge project was originally planned at the site of the existing bridge. Planning stalled for years and was revived in 1999. That plan was abruptly stopped after a coastal engineer determined that the bridge would be anchored to a severely eroding section of beach.

Engineers then came up with a 17.5-mile design that would bypass Pea Island entirely. After strong objections from local officials over the high cost and lack of access to the refuge, NCDOT eventually designed the phased approach as its preferred alternative.

The phased approach had been estimated to cost $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion, including maintenance and construction through 2060. The new alternative is expected to cost $300 million less.

Trogdon said public forums on the new option will be held before August. The Record of Decision, the final step in the planning process, is expected in September or October.

If all goes as planned, Trogdon said, the design/build contract is scheduled to be let in February 2010.

Catherine Kozak, (252) 441-1711, cate.kozak@pilotonline.com
Bearing Pads to be Replaced

The bearing pads at Bent #143 will be replaced on 5/23/07 and 5/24/07 as part as the general maintenance to the structure.
Action Committee First Anniversary

Dare County’s Citizen Action Committee to Replace the Bonner Bridge marked its one–year anniversary expressing gratitude that its work has helped get the work of replacing the bridge over Oregon Inlet back on track. The committee was formed by the Dare County Commissioners to focus attention on the need to replace the Bonner Bridge for the safety and welfare of the residents due to its deteriorating condition. The committee held its first meeting on May 18, 2006.

Encouraging progress has been made in terms of reaching a timely, humane and fair decision on bridge replacement that takes into consideration not only the environmental concerns involved, but also the immediacy of the need, the availability of funding and the safety of the traveling public,’’ says Beth Midgett, chair of the committee as she reflected on the work accomplished during the past year.

North Carolina’s Department of Transportation (DOT) recently recommended construction of a parallel bridge, the option referred to as the short bridge phased alternative, as the preferred choice of seven options presented for public hearings and comment in April. At the public hearings, residents overwhelmingly expressed a desire for immediate action due to safety concerns associated with the deteriorating condition of the span over the inlet.

The DOT recommendation now moves to consideration by the Merger Team, which includes representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Merger team members must concur on the final decision at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 23 in Raleigh. The selected alternative will be included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement scheduled for release in Spring 2008.
``We have seen movement from all involved in recognition that time is of the essence for this project to be completed. Our fear is that the debate may be permitted to continue if our community thinks the issue is resolved. We encourage residents to monitor our website at www.replacethebridgenow.com,’ added Midgett. ``To allow the debate to drag on any further would create a clear and present safety issue for all who depend on that bridge.’

The website provides detailed information on the project, its history and its progress and directs people to contact officials who can keep the project on track.
Dare County’s Citizen Action Committee members include: Beth Midgett, Chairman; Vice-Chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners Allen Burrus; Chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners Warren Judge; Rudy Austin; John Robert Hooper; Natalie Kavanagh; Scott Leggett; Wayne Mathis; Bruce Matthews; Tim Midgett; Wayne Midgette; Jackie Myers; Noah Paley; Susie Perry; and Jamie Tunnell.
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative Releases Latest Bridge Cable Costs

For Immediate Release Contact: Jim Kinghorn
May 8, 2007 252-995-7076 or

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative Releases Latest Bridge Cable Costs

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative officials released the latest estimates during the Cooperative Annual Meeting at Buxton of the costs of replacing power cables when the present Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet is replaced. Cooperative EVP / General Manager Jim Kinghorn told members in attendance at the meeting that the bridge replacement option that is finally chosen by the NC Department of Transportation could have a major impact on electric rates on Hatteras Island.

The Cooperative as an organization has not taken an official position on which bridge option should be chosen, but management emphasized that it is important that customers understand the impact that the choice will have on operating costs of the Cooperative.

In the case of the “parallel” (or short) bridge, replacing the existing electric facilities with a set of cables located on the new bridge, similar to what is on the present bridge, is estimated to cost CHEC as much as $12 million. This expenditure is projected to result in a possible rate impact to CHEC consumers of 12 percent, or about a 1.3 cent per KWH increase from 11.2 cents in 2011 to 12.5 cents per KWH in 2014, when the replacement bridge is expected to be completed.

If the “Pamlico Sound” (or 18-mile long) Bridge option is selected by NCDOT, the cost for CHEC to replace the existing cables is estimated to be as much as $53.6 million. The long bridge option is now estimated to result in a rate increase of approximately 42 percent, or about a 4.7 cent per KWH increase from 11.2 cents per KWH in 2011 to 15.9 cents in 2014.
The actual cost replacement of the bridge itself will likely be shared at least by all the taxpayers in the state. Only the electric customers on Hatteras Island will pay the full cost of the power cable replacement.

While loan funds may be available to CHEC to pay the cost of the replacement cables, the loan will have to be repaid with interest.
If the long bridge option becomes a reality, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative will seek grant funds to pay for the added expense, but expects a low probability that such funds will be available. There is presently no known source of grant funds available for this purpose.
The rate increases cited are calculated only based on the impact of the bridge cable replacement and not any increases in wholesale power costs or other changes in the Cooperative’s cost of doing business. The total value of all electric facilities presently owned by the Cooperative is $37.3 million.

Inter-Agency Merger Team to Discuss Plan at May 23 Meeting

RALEIGH -- The N.C. Department of Transportation is recommending that the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on North Carolina’s Outer Banks be replaced by a 2.7-mile-long bridge parallel to the existing concrete span. NCDOT is also recommending that portions of N.C. 12 be elevated through Pea Island Wildlife Refuge and northern Rodanthe on new bridges within the existing highway easement.

An inter-departmental merger team, with representatives from 13 state and federal agencies, is scheduled to select an alternative on Wednesday, May 23, after considering public comments and agency recommendations.

NCDOT recommends first building a new bridge parallel to the existing Oregon Inlet span and then adding more bridges along N.C. 12 as necessitated by shoreline erosion. This alternative is known as the “Phased Approach/Rodanthe Bridge.”

The merger team will review NCDOT’s recommended alternative along with six other options. The entire team, which includes representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of the Interior, must concur on the final decision.

The selected alternative will be included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement scheduled for release in Spring 2008. Construction using the design-build method is scheduled to be let for bids in early 2009. Completion of a replacement bridge is expected in 2013.

For more information, visit the Outer Banks Task Force Web site at: www.obtf.org
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