BRADENTON, Fla. - North Carolina reached an agreement with conservation groups that will allow the state to proceed with the long-planned replacement of the deteriorating, 50-year-old Bonner Bridge.
The pact, announced June 15, allows the North Carolina Department of Transportation to build a new bridge parallel to the Bonner across Oregon Inlet connecting the northern Outer Banks to Hatteras Island along NC 12, a state highway.
NCDOT will reconsider options for re-routing a section of the bridge outside of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge under the settlement agreement.
After certain tasks are complete and work has ceased in the refuge, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association said they will dismiss federal and state lawsuits brought on their behalf by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
"We are pleased that NCDOT and its partner agencies will consider additional options for NC 12 that will provide safe, reliable transportation by avoiding the areas where erosion and washouts shut down the road in its current location, said SELC attorney Julie Youngman. "This is a win-win for the refuge and everyone who relies on NC 12."
The Federal Highway Administration is also a party to the settlement.
Transportation secretary Tony Tata said the agreement will allow the state to move forward on a plan to provide a safe and reliable bridge for residents and visitors of the Outer Banks.
"Today, we begin building a bridge that has been more than two decades in the making," said Gov. Pat McCrory.
North Carolina planned to build a $216 million span connecting the northern Outer Banks across a route widely seen as is unreliable because portions of NC 12 are vulnerable to high tides and storms.
The state did not release cost estimates for the revised bridge replacement plan under the agreement with the conservation agencies.