HATTERAS, N.C. (WTKR)–The North Carolina Department of Transportation has closed the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet to NC-12 along the Outer Banks today due to immediate safety concerns.
Sonar scanning of the bridge has identified scouring concerns, or areas where too much sand has eroded from the support structure of the bridge.
NCDOT crews have been monitoring the conditions of the bridge all week. The inspections have revealed additional areas of concern, which led officials to the decision to close the bridge immediately.
The bridge will remain closed until additional resources can be brought in to inspect the bridge and make necessary repairs.
NCDOT has declared a state of emergency as a way of expediting the process.
The Bonner Bridge is the only highway access for vehicles between Hatteras Island and the mainland. Until it reopens, NCDOT will provide ferries to move people and cars across the Pamlico Sound. [VIEW: NC Ferry System to provide access to Hatteras Island after Bonner Bridge closure]
Ferry workers have already tested emergency ferry ramps at Stumpy Point and Rodanthe. Four vessels are already en route to begin operating the emergency Hatteras Island Route.
All tolls currently in place on the Ocracoke-Swan Quarter and Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry routes will be waived for residents, emergency personnel and vendors while the bridge is closed and the emergency ferry route is in operation. The U.S. Coast Guard is also currently on standby.
At full capacity on a full schedule, the route can ferry 760 single cars a day, 380 from each side.
The Bonner Bridge was built in 1963 and about 13,000 vehicles cross it during peak season in the summer.
Crews started the process of replacing it back in 1989. In 1990, a barge crashed into the bridge and destroyed several spans. It was closed for a few months.
Since this time, NCDOT has spent almost $56 million to repair, maintain and inspect the Bonner Bridge.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was approved in November of 1993. Clyde Coltrane remembers when this happened in 1990. The bridge was shut down for months.
NCDOT says more crews are needed to assess what needs to be done and how long it’ll take.
“You really don’t know when you get over here when you’ll get back,” Coltrane said.
“We knew it was coming, we didn’t know it was going to be like this,” Paul Tate of Rodanthe said.
Friday sonar detected the bridge was in critical shape, four days of worsening conditions made it unsafe today.
“I’d much rather us to be standing in line here or waiting in line here than somebody falling to death,” Tate said.
“If you live on the island you have to be sort of used to this kind of stuff,” Tate said. “It’s the bridge that we have, this should have been taken care of many year ago.”