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New bridge over Oregon Inlet provides historic trek

On a frigid Saturday, February 9, hundreds of people from near and far walked, ran or biked across the new bridge over Oregon Inlet.

The trek was described as an awesome and fun experience with beautiful views. Lots of photographs dot social media documenting the accomplishment of completing all or a part of the walk.

It was cold!

At the start of the 30-minute program at 10 a.m., the temperature was 40 degrees, wind was blowing from the North at 21 miles per hour with gusts to 30 miles per hour. The wind chill factor brought the temperature to 30 degrees. As the day wore one, the temperature dropped a few degrees. The wind chill reached 27 degree at 4 o’clock, the time the bridge closed for the event.

The event started at 10 a.m. with officials and others crammed into a tent set up at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.

new bridge

People jammed into a tent at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center for the 10 a.m. ceremony marking the start of Community Day for the new bridge over Oregon Inlet. Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy photo

Serving as the ceremony’s leader was Allen Moran, who represents Division 1 on the North Carolina Board of Transportation.

Speakers included Dave Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina; Beth Midgett, who spoke with Natalie Kavanagh, standing with her representing the Bridge Moms; Malcolm Fearing, former member of the state board of transportation; Greer Beaty, deputy secretary for communications for the state transportation department; and Robert L. Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

Dare County provided audio for the event. Cape Hatteras Secondary School’s DECA students staffed a hot chocolate table with contributions from Food Lion.

Hallac said the engineering for the bridge was more complicated than rocket science.

The bridge, designed by HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas, is cantilevered at its highest points. The pilings are longer and driven deeper into the inlet bottom.

Midgett represented the Bridge Moms organization, which organized letter writing, public campaigns and visits to elected officials.

Fearing said “what a great job you did” and described the importance of the bridge for commerce over and under the structure and for emergencies. “To all the dedicated people and NCDOT, thank you so much for what you do.”

Beaty, representing Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon, said “congratulations for seeing this through to the finish line.”

Woodard was “happy to celebrate the fulfillment of the dream.”

new bridge

A wreath, created by Sydnee Roberts Slaughter with Sunflowers, was blessed as part of the tent ceremony and then taken to the top of the new bridge over Oregon Inlet. The wreath was tossed over the bridge to honor the close connection between the people of the Outer Banks and the inlet. The wreath is biodegradable. The greenery was collected from Hatteras Island. Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy photo

A little more information about the star of the show: the new bridge over Oregon Inlet

– It has taken almost 30 years to reach this milestone in Dare County history. The department of transportation started planning for this bridge in March 1990.

– The first environmental document was published in 1993. Many more documents and studies followed. A lawsuit was filed, argued and the decision appealed.

– The lawsuit was settled in August 2015 and NCDOT moved ahead with building this stunning new bridge.

– A design-build contract was won by PCL Constructors Inc. and the design firm HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas. Representatives of both organizations were present Feb. 9.

– A traditional ground-breaking was held March 8, 2016.

– Construction proceeded from both the south and north sides.

– At one time, 13 lattice-type tall cranes worked the project. Small, telescoping cranes pushed the number of cranes close to 20.

Bridge Statistics

– The high-rise portion of the bridge is 3,500 feet long with seven navigational spans, averaging about 300 feet in width each. No independent wooden fenders will be built. That high-rise section is 90 feet above mean high tide. The old bridge has one navigation span, 130 feet wide with wooden fenders.

– The new bridge has 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot shoulders. The wide shoulders provide a safer bridge journey for those walking or biking or running NC 12. The current bridge has no shoulders.

– The bridge is 2.8 miles long. The access and road portions make the project 3.5 miles long.

– The estimated cost of the new bridge is $252 million dollars.

– The old bridge will be demolished and the debris deposited on three artificial reefs north of Oregon Inlet and one south of Oregon Inlet. A portion of the old bridge will remain and be modified for a fishing pier on the south side of the inlet.

new bridge

This portion of the existing bridge over Oregon Inlet will remain. The catwalks, fencing and railing will be removed and new railing installed so the structure can be used as a fishing pier. Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy photo

About the bridge name

On Monday, Feb. 4, Dare County Board of Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to recommend the new bridge be named the Marc Basnight Oregon Inlet Bridge.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, the North Carolina Board of Transportation’s Road, Bridge and Ferry naming committee recommended naming the new bridge over Oregon Inlet the “Marc Basnight Bridge,” with a sign underneath it with “Oregon Inlet.” The remaining section of the old bridge would retain the name the “Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.” The full Board of Transportation will vote on the resolution at its next monthly meeting, March 7.

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