Bonner Bridge Replacement Project
by Jessie S.
If you’ve visited Hatteras Island over the past few months, you’ve undoubtedly seen construction crews hard at work at replacing the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. For the last two years, as they drive along the old bridge, residents and visitors alike have been staring up in awe at the towering new bridge patiently awaiting its opening. These past few years may have been filled with lane closures and other complications but the replacement bridge project, which first broke ground in March 2016, is finally coming to a close.
The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge connects Hatteras Island to the northern Outer Banks via N.C. 12 across the Oregon Inlet. Originally opened in 1963, the construction of the Bonner Bridge brought mainstream tourism to Hatteras Island and made it easy for residents and visitors to commute back and forth between the northern and southern Outer Banks. Unfortunately, like all structures in the area, the Bonner Bridge was not immune to harsh environmental conditions ranging from summer storms and high winds to nor’easters and hurricanes. Notably, the Bonner Bridge also sees an average of over 10,000 travelers a day during the summer months. Considering the bridge is the only way to access Hatteras Island by car, it’s no surprise that the deteriorating conditions of the bridge were a cause for concern.
Plans for replacing The Bonner Bridge actually began over 28 years ago when it was first added to NCDOT’s priority list of transportation improvements. Originally designed to last just 30 years, the nineties came and went without a solid resolution to the updating of the bridge. As traffic increased with new tourism and years went by with continuing weather damage, a study in 2007 reported the Bonner Bridge had a 2 out of 100 sufficiency rating. This alarming rating launched replacement plans into high gear. After ongoing years of environmental impact studies, lawsuits and weather issues, construction first began on March 8, 2016 by contracting company PCL Civil Constructors Inc..
The new bridge
The new bridge runs parallel to the existing bridge to the west and spans 2.8 miles long. According to NCDOT, the bridge is constructed with modern engineering features that will give it a 100-year life span including high-durability concrete, stainless reinforcing steel and longer pilings. To address traveler safety concerns from the current bridge, the new bridge features two 12-foot wide travel lanes with 8-foot wide shoulder space. For mariners, the new Bonner Bridge includes seven different navigational spans that are much longer than on the current bridge. Construction of the bridge cost an estimated $246 million.
Completion and opening
Originally scheduled to open in November last year, weather setbacks have delayed the schedule several times. However, now that the bridge is connected in both directions, the construction is finally wrapping up. Final road paving to connect the bridge to N.C. 12 will occur over the next month. Motorists are urged to remain on alert as this is still an active construction zone and speed limit reductions and lane closures may be in effect. According to NCDOT, current finishing touches include completing the barrier railings, completing power lines underneath the bridge, and painting lane markings. Once these projects have been completed, officials will determine the official opening date. Either way, as long as construction continues on schedule, the new bridge should be open to traffic by the end of February 2019. A formal opening ceremony is currently being planned and expected to occur in April but there has been no date announced yet for this event. A intermittent ceremony will occur this weekend, February 9, 2019, when pedestrians and bicyclists will be allowed to cross the bridge between 10 AM and 4 PM.
What does the opening of the new bridge mean for your vacation? While there are plenty of fun activities in the northern Outer Banks, a day trip down to Hatteras Island should definitely be part of your itinerary. From water sports and fishing to bird watching and long walks on the beach, a trip over the new Bonner Bridge is sure to bring an exciting new experience to your vacation. 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.
Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with her awesome cat, Yoji, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure.