Dredging could begin Friday at Bonner Bridge

Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:49 PM

RALEIGH — Dredging could begin as early as Friday afternoon at the Bonner Bridge as state officials move to repair the closed span that's the only road access between Hatteras Island and the mainland.

State officials said the Dredge Alaska is expected to start moving sand Friday afternoon from the main navigation channel of the Oregon Inlet and deposit it underneath the 50-year-old bridge, state officials said Thursday in a news release. The dredging is expected to take two days, weather and current permitting.

The announcement about the dredging came the same day as Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency at the bridge, which state officials closed Tuesday after learning the Oregon Inlet had scoured out sand around some of the bridge's supports. The state Transportation Department said reopening the bridge will require fortifying the bridge's support columns and bringing in additional sand.

McCrory is scheduled to hold a news conference at the bridge Friday after inspecting it.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., on Thursday urged the U.S. Corps of Engineers to quickly approve any necessary emergency permits to expedite repair of the support columns and dredge ferry channels to maintain service.

Once dredging is finished, DOT crews will scan and inspect the bridge's piles to determine what repairs are needed next.

McCrory declared the state of emergency for the bridge and the emergency ferry terminals at Stumpy Point and Rodanthe. The declaration puts Frank Perry, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety, in charge of managing the emergency and directs Perry to seek reimbursement from the federal government for the costs.

The declaration will speed repairs because the state will not have to get the permits that it normally would, DPS spokeswoman Julia Jarema said. It also allows the state to seek federal assistance and assets, such as advice or equipment from the Army Corps of Engineers, she said.

The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $1.6 million contract to Carolina Bridge Company Inc. of Orangeburg, S.C., for the bridge repairs. NCDOT and the contractor are working together to determine when the repairs will be completed.

Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. is dredging the sand. Once dredging is finished, crews from the state Transportation Department will scan and inspect the bridge's piles to determine what repairs are needed next.

DOT closed the bridge Tuesday afternoon and began operating an emergency ferry route between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe with limited service Tuesday night.

When it was built in 1963, the bridge was designed to last 30 years. DOT began the process of trying to replace the Bonner Bridge in 1989 and awarded a contract of almost $216 million in 2011 for construction of a parallel span that was set to begin earlier this year.

But legal challenges have delayed its construction. In September, a federal judge approved plans for a parallel span to replace the bridge, rejecting the objections of environmentalists who support a 17-mile bridge over the Pamlico Sound with an estimated price tag of $1.1 billion.

The Southern Environmental Law Center appealed the judge's decision, arguing that a parallel bridge to connect to N.C. Highway 12 on Hatteras Island ignores washouts and breaches on the coastal road.