RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina transportation officials closed the only bridge onto a 60-mi. (96.5 km) stretch of the Outer Banks on Dec. 3 after discovering the deteriorating span posed an immediate safety threat.
The state Department of Transportation said it closed the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet on North Carolina 12 to protect the traveling public. The DOT declared that the inlet had scoured out sand around the base of supports at the southern end of the bridge, near Hatteras Island.
Subsequent sonar tests and divers found there was more sand gone in that section of the bridge than previously thought, DOT spokesman Mike Charbonneau said. Reopening the bridge will require fortifying the bridge's support columns and bringing in additional sand, he said.
The Bonner Bridge is the only road access for vehicles between Hatteras Island and the mainland. An emergency ferry will move people and cars across the Pamlico Sound to Hatteras Island, transportation officials said.
“Closing the Bonner Bridge is necessary to keep all travelers safe, but we know it will have a devastating effect on the people who live along and visit the Outer Banks,'' state Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said in a statement. “We will work to safely reopen this vital lifeline quickly.''
Once the ferry is operating at full capacity on a full schedule, it will be able to carry 760 cars a day in both directions, the DOT said.