Bonner Bridge Replacement

In 2011, Hurricane Irene washed out Highway 12. Hurricanes aren't the only threat to Highway 12, Tropical Storm Ida washed out the road in 2009.


Photo © USFWS, Tom MacKenzie

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NCDOT and Conservation Groups Represented by SELC Discussing Possible Bonner Bridge Solutions More »

Outer Banks NC 12 Access Unreliable for Hatteras

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.

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