State transportation officials say they have set up emergency ferry service, a day after engineers shut down the only bridge between the mainland and Hatteras Island along the Outer Banks.
The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge was closed by the N.C. Department of Transportation for what it cited as “immediate safety concerns.”
The DOT said a routine check of the bridge found areas where sand has eroded too much of the support structure of the bridge. A further check revealed “areas of concern,” the DOT said in a news release.
State officials say the bridge, on N.C. 12 over the Oregon Inlet, will remain closed until repairs are made.
“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.
The DOT has planned to replace the bridge for several years, but the project has been delayed by a series of legal challenges from the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of two environmental groups.
Environmentalists say the new bridge would threaten ecologically fragile areas, and they want N.C. 12 rerouted. State officials say such a change would add considerable traveling distance and time along the Outer Banks.
To cope with the bridge closure, the DOT said it is launching ferry service between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe.
They said the service means some boats and crews must be moved off the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry route, so fewer of those runs will be made.
The state says it will run four 180-foot River Class vessels. The route will take two hours to complete, with a capacity of about 35 vehicles on each trip. That means about 380 vehicles can be carried from each side daily.