14 Jun 2022
The New Marc Basnight Bridge (Bonner Bridge Replacement)
For people traveling to and from Hatteras Island, no bridge is more important than the recently named Marc Basnight Bridge. This 2.8-mile bridge, connecting Bodie Island to Hatteras Island, was completed in February 2019. It replaces the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which has served as the only way on and off of the island since 1963. This means that, come hurricane season, the Bonner Bridge, which became more and more unreliable as it aged, remained an essential hurricane evacuation route and was due for an innovative, safe, and environmentally friendly update.
Continue reading to learn more about the old Bonner Bridge, the new Marc Basnight Bridge, and what the bridge’s completion means for your vacation.
What was the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge?
The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge was the bridge connecting Hatteras Island to the northern Outer Banks via N.C. Hwy. 12 across Oregon Inlet. The Bonner Bridge originally opened in 1963. The construction of the bridge allowed a new wave of tourism to begin on Hatteras Island and made the northern Outer Banks, with their access to additional stores and services not found on Hatteras Island, more accessible for locals, as well. The bridge withstood the traffic of nearly 2 million cars per year for more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, the state government was forced to spend millions of dollars continuously repairing the bridge after the original construction did not plan for beach erosion, severe weather (including hurricanes), and the kind of traffic that Outer Banks tourism would eventually bring in. Plans for replacing the Bonner Bridge began over 30 years ago, but after years of environmental impact studies, lawsuits, and tumultuous and unpredictable Outer Banks weather, construction finally began on what would become the Marc Basnight Bridge on March 8, 2016.
What happened to the old bridge?
Many portions of the bridge were demolished and the rubble is being used at offshore reef sites through the partnership between NCDOT and the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. However, about 1,000 feet of the original bridge were left standing as part of an effort to shift the ocean current into the center of Oregon Inlet and this section of the bridge has been designated as a public fishing pier as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Learn more about the Bonner Bridge Pier and other piers of the Outer Banks on our Seaside Vacations Blog here.
What’s so special about the Marc Basnight Bridge?
According to NCDOT, the Marc Basnight Bridge is the first bridge in North Carolina that was built using stainless reinforcing steel and pilings that are made to go deeper into the inlet floor in order to prevent sand washing away from the piles.This $254 million project took about 3 years to complete construction before its formal dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting on April 2, 2019. In the center of the new bridge sits a 3,550-foot-long concrete box that is the third-longest continuous segmental concrete box girder unit in North America. More information on the construction of the bridge can be found here. The Basnight Bridge is expected to last for the next 100 years, which is 70 years longer than originally planned, due to the steel reinforcement that will protect the bridge from corrosion. The bridge is also wider, featuring 12-foot wide travel lands with an 8-foot wide shoulder space, meaning that the trip to Hatteras Island is much safer. Beneath the bridge, the Marc Basnight Bridge also includes 7 different navigational spans making nautical transportation under the bridge a much less daunting task.
The Basnight Bridge has also received multiple awards for its impressive construction, which towers nearly 90 feet above the water. It was named American Infrastructure’s Bridge of the Year for 2020 and received the Project of the Year award from the American Society for Civil Engineers and a Sustainable Design Award from the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute. The construction team worked meticulously to ensure the safety of ocean wildlife during construction and the project was completed with the local aquatic ecosystem in mind. In keeping with the spirit of the mission of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the preservation of the Outer Banks environment, the Basnight Bridge stands as a symbol of what is possible in the future of sustainable coastal architecture.
Who was Marc Basnight?
Born in Manteo, NC, Marc Basnight was the longest-serving legislative leader in North Carolina’s history. He was a Democratic member of the North Carolina State Senate from 1984 to 2010, when he resigned just before what would have been the start of his 14th term. Apart from his political experience as an ardent supporter of rural economies and safe transportation in the state, Basnight was known as a lover of the arts and a dedicated servant of the Outer Banks community. He was also the owner of Basnight’s Lone Cedar Cafe, where his family continues to own and operate the business, serving up delicious seafood and equally spectacular waterfront views to Outer Banks visitors and locals alike. The replacement of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet was the only project he would allow to be named after him as the replacement of the Bonner Bridge was something that Basnight had been pushing for in Congress for years. Marc Basnight passed away on December 28, 2020, a year and a half after the Basnight Bridge’s opening ceremony.
What does this mean for bridge travel?
So what does the opening of the new bridge mean for your vacation? While there are plenty of fun activities to do in the northern Outer Banks, a day trip down to Hatteras Island should definitely be part of your itinerary. From watersports and fishing to bird watching and long walks on the beach, a trip over the Marc Basnight Bridge is sure to bring an exciting new experience to your vacation. Be sure to stop by the Bonner Bridge Pier to go fishing, take a nature walk, or take some photos of the beautiful sights over Oregon Inlet.
Bonner Bridge Fishing Pier - Outer Banks, NC
If you’re planning to stay awhile, don’t forget to check out one of our gorgeous Outer Banks Vacation Rentals. We even have a selection of Hatteras Rentals for you to choose from.
So what are you waiting for? Book your memorable Outer Banks vacation today!
About the Author: Lauren is the author of two books and a travel enthusiast. She grew up on the Outer Banks and only left for a few years to get her degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and complete a tour in the Coast Guard before making her way back to the beach in 2017. The only thing Lauren loves more than writing is sharing her love of the Outer Banks and its rich history with visitors and locals alike. When she isn’t writing for the Seaside Vacations Travel Blog, Lauren can usually be found with a book and cup of tea in hand, planning her next travel adventure and trying to figure out what happened to the Lost Colony.