The Outer Banks is one of the most unique and desired beach locations for visitors from all over the United States and the world. These visitors flock to the Outer Banks for many different reasons such as surfing, recreational or sport fishing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, family reunions, and weddings. The southern portion of the Outer Banks is Hatteras Island, which includes the villages Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras. In order to cross over onto Hatteras Island, from the north, visitors must cross the Bonner Bridge. The Pamlico sound and Atlantic Ocean join under the two and a half mile bridge that connects Bodie Island and Pea Island. The Bonner Bridge, which was built in 1963, is the only highway connection from mainland North Carolina and Hatteras Island.
The Bonner Bridge was once expected to have a 30-year life span and has since exceeded those dates. Between local traffic and seasonal tourism traffic the bridge handles about two million cars a year. Together with the high volume of traffic, steady beach erosion, and turbulent storm seasons, the state is persistently forced to defend the integrity of NC Highway 12. Even though it is considered to be safe for travel, because of the constant maintenance, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has given the Bonner Bridge a four on a scale out of a possible 100 for structural integrity.
Due for replacement many years ago, the construction of a new bridge has been continuity hindered attributable to environmental lawsuits brought by means of the Southern Environmental Law Council. After many years a settlement agreement between lawyers from two conservation groups and NCDOT was reached, on June of 2015, with lawsuits officially being dropped on August 14, 2015, allowing a new bridge to be built parallel to the Bonner Bridge. The building of the new bridge will come as a relief to the many that live, travel, or own businesses and rely on the bridge as a necessary lifeline to the mainland.
On November 20, 2015, Governor McCrory announced utility work required to begin construction of the new Bonner Bridge replacement is underway. In the press release from November 20, 2015, Governor McCrory stated, “After decades of delays and court challenges, the people of Dare County and North Carolina will finally begin to see construction on the replacement for the Bonner Bridge. The Bonner Bridge has been a lifeline for the residents and visitors to the Outer Banks, and this first step toward building its replacement is a historic milestone for the region and entire state.”
According to the press release, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative is doing the utility work and PCL Civil Constructors Inc. and HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas will be in charge of designing and building the bridge. The bridge is expected to cost $216 million dollars and take three years to fully construct.