Bonner Bridge Replacement
Outer Banks NC 12 Access Unreliable for Hatteras
NCDOT’s Closure of Bonner Bridge
The National Wildlife Refuge Association and Defenders of Wildlife, represented by Southern Environmental Law Center, continue to advocate for reliable and safe transportation on the Outer Banks. The recent closure of the Bonner Bridge shows just how devastating the frequent bridge closures and road washouts along NC 12 can be for island residents. The state’s current decision not to invest in a long-term solution for Hatteras Island is likely to have catastrophic consequences for years to come.
Groups File Appeal for Reliable Route to Hatteras
Before the N.C. Department of Transportation commits public resources to building and maintaining a patchwork of bridges and highway in the Atlantic Ocean’s tidal zone and surf for the next 50 years, conservation groups filed an appeal in federal court to ensure that there is adequate public consideration of total project impacts—including disclosure of the long-term costs—and safer, more reliable alternative routes across Oregon Inlet to the village of Rodanthe.
The state's current plan to replace Bonner Bridge, the only bridge connecting the mainland to North Carolina’s Hatteras Island, at its same location ignores the obvious and persistent problems of NC 12 south of the bridge through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to Rodanthe on the barrier island. The current plan to rely on a stretch of road continually overwashed or washed out by high tides and storms that cut off access to and from Hatteras Island jeopardizes residents, tourists, local businesses, and coastal wildlife.
An Unreliable Plan
In violation of law, the Federal Highway Administration and N.C. Department of Transportation’s planned replacement fails to include how they will maintain Highway 12 through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, an exposed oceanfront stretch of road that is expected to become increasingly eroded over coming years. The illegal plan is unsafe and unreliable for residents, travelers and businesses with undisclosed costs and impacts, not only to taxpayers, but also to those residents, businesses and coastal environment. By ignoring the inherent flaw in their plan, the agencies trap the state and its residents into hidden costs and environmental damage of continually trying to maintain the road and proposed additional bridges through the refuge against the persistent power of the ocean. The costs will likely be much higher, and incurred much sooner, than estimated.
Reliable, Safe Alternatives
SELC and other conservation groups are pushing the state to consider safer bridge replacement alternatives. A longer bridge that bypasses the unstable part of the island and the wildlife refuge and travels instead through the Pamlico Sound to the village of Rodanthe would be safer and more reliable for visitors and residents. A high-speed, shallow draft ferry system is another alternative that has not been seriously studied. Such alternatives would be more reliable and safer given the ocean exposure, flooding and erosion of NC 12 while preserving the refuge.
Wildlife at Risk
Ongoing construction work inherent in the current plan would pose a constant threat to the natural island, migratory waterbirds and nesting sea turtles as well as their young.
More background on this case:
Bonner Bridge Replacement Background >>