New bridge over Oregon Inlet celebrated
The new bridge over Oregon Inlet was formally named for State Senator Marc Basnight in an afternoon ceremony April 2.
The gathering drew Gov. Roy Cooper, local elected officials, NCDOT dignitaries and staffers, bridge construction workers and engineers and citizens who wanted to be present at a historic moment in Dare County history.
Malcolm Fearing, whose father was in charge of the 1964 Bonner Bridge dedication, served as Master of Ceremonies for the program. He issued thanks for the stunning new bridge and provided family and bridge histories.
The opening followed a traditional pattern, including a presentation of colors by a unit from U.S. Coast Guard Station Oregon Inlet, the Pledge of Allegiance led by Allen Moran, current N.C. Transportation Board member, and an invocation delivered by Pastor Matt Seals of Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church in Manteo.
Fearing called Marc Basnight’s daughters, Caroline Basnight Moran and Vicki Basnight, to the podium. Vicki read a letter penned by her father. In the letter, Basnight said “So, thanks to all people in the great state of North Carolina who helped make our bridge a new must see in America.”
Bridge Mom Natalie Kavanagh spoke from her heart 10 years ago and again at the ceremony. Ten years ago, she feared for the safety of her child and herself as she drove across the dilapidated bridge. Other Bridge Moms, like Beth Midgett, were concerned. Those Bridge Moms wrote letters and more letters to local, state and federal representatives. Finally, gridlock was broken. “They did hear us. They did something about it.”
“We are so proud of this bridge,” said Kavanagh.
Like the old bridge, the new one launches from Bodie Island, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and lands on the north end of Hatteras Island in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
On the program were David Hallac, superintendent of the National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, and Rebekah Martin, project leader for Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges.
Hallac organized his remarks around “unwavering dedication, friendship and teamwork.” He lauded the work of NCDOT staffers. “They are heroes.”
Said Hallac, “we have something very special here. We work as a team.”
Martin said 30,000 people visited the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center last year. All of those visitors to the refuge crossed Oregon Inlet to visit the “borrowed blessing.”
Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, saluted current and former commissioners for working for the new bridge.
He read letters from U.S. Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr.
“This is a great day,” said Woodard. “We never gave up.”
Jim Trogdon, secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation, thanked everyone who worked on the project. “It took a team effort.” The bridge, said Trogdon, is “a new lifeline.”
Trogdon announced that “the high-level navigation span, at 3,550 feet long, is the third longest continuous segmental concrete box girder unit in North America.”
Despite the pouring down rain, Gov. Roy Cooper declared it “perfect day” as it showed resilience.
He told fond remembrances about Marc Basnight. Despite the fact that Marc didn’t like socks, which Cooper wore, or lawyers, which Cooper is, the pair became good friends.
Basnight became a champion of the state’s university system and economic development.
Said Cooper, “he never cared about power for power’s sake” and let everybody shine.
Basnight cared about “getting things done,” said Cooper.
The program concluded with a ribbon cutting. Snipping the ribbon were former Dare County commissioner Allen Burrus, State Representative John Torbet, Fearing, Woodard, Trogdon, Cooper, Basnight’s daughters and grandchildren, Allen Moran, Bridge Moms Kavanagh and Midgett, Martin and Hallac.
After the ribbon cutting, attendees were invited to sign a piece of railing and an engraved stone from the Bonner Bridge.
The ceremony was held at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center. The crowd’s spirit was celebratory and not dimmed by the pouring down rain outside.
Letter from Marc Basnight
You gather here today to honor me – but this naming belongs to many.
Early on there was a perception that we on the Outer Banks didn’t belong to anyone let alone Raleigh. A change slowly occurred when the many gathered to start building bridges with our brethren in Raleigh. With our convincing and at times fussy belief we were successful.
Bridges bring people together and never divide.
So, thanks to all people in the great state of North Carolina who helped make our bridge a new must see in America.
With much grateful love,
I thank you,
Meet the new bridge
The Marc Basnight Bridge over Oregon Inlet opened for vehicular traffic at 12:20 p.m., Feb. 25. On April 2, a ribbon was cut to officially name the bridge.
It took almost 30 years to build the stunning new lifeline. NCDOT started working on the project in 1990.
The bridge is “a new must see in America,” penned Marc Basnight.
Here are some details about the connection:
Length: 2.8 miles
Height: 90.4 feet above mean high tide.
Concrete: 90,000 cubic yards (25.8 miles) of precast concrete
Piles: Bridge piles placed end-to-end would stretch 16 miles.
More than 100 engineers were involved in the planning and design
Project Cost: $254 million
High-rise portion: 3,500 feet long
Navigation spans: 7, about 300 feet in width
Shoulders: 8 feet wide
Built to last 100 years.
First bridge to use stainless reinforcing steel.
Scour resistant. Built to withstand 84 feet of scour. Pilings are placed 130 feet into bottom of Oregon Inlet.
Fishing pier and walkway. About 1,000 feet of the old bridge attached to the southern shoreline will retain the name Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. The bridge is currently undergoing demolition. Debris will be used to enhance existing ocean reefs.
Lots of people and organizations to thank for the Basnight Bridge over Oregon Inlet
Malcolm Fearing, who served as Master of Ceremonies at the April 2 bridge event, produced this list of people and folks to thank for the new bridge over Oregon Inlet. It was read at the start of the program.
Gov. Roy Cooper, the sixth governor to be involved in the new bridge history
Former Gov. Pat McCrory
Former Secretary of Transportation Nick Tennyson
State Representatives John Tolbert, “Mr. Transportation”
Former Board of Transportation Member and State Senator Stan White
Shelly Blake, board attorney, who negotiated the settlement agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center and Defenders of Wildlife. “Without her leadership, we would not be here today,” said Fearing.
PCL Civil Constructors, Inc.
The NCDOT Team
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative
Allen Moran, current member of the North Carolina Board of Transportation, continued the thank yous, calling out Warren Judge, chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Dare County, who during his terms made trips to Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, pushing for the bridge.
He saluted Jim Trogdon, current state Secretary of Transportation. “Without him, the bridge would be a drawing on somebody’s desk,” said Moran.
About the Bonner Bridge
Malcolm Fearing shared some information about Herbert C. Bonner and Dare County at the time of its dedication.
Herbert Covington Bonner was a member of Congress, representing North Carolina’s First District, from Nov. 5, 1940 to Nov. 7, 1965.
The Bonner Bridge replaced a passenger ferry that crossed Oregon Inlet.
Fearing recognized four construction workers who built the Bonner Bridge: Hughes Tillett, the crew leader, Jimmy Dough, Charley Clark and Jeffrey Midgett.
Some 41 hurricanes have hit the coast of North Carolina during the Bonner’s service. A barge hit three spans in October 1990 and transportation across Oregon Inlet was again by passenger car ferry.
On May 2, 1964, when the Bonner Bridge was dedicated, the population of Dare County was 6,400 people. It is now an estimated 36,000.
Real property value in 1964 was just over $24 million. Today, real property in Dare County is valued at $12.2 billion.
About Marc Basnight, for whom the new bridge is named
He was born May 13, 1947 in the Etta Peele House in Manteo.
Malcolm Fearing said Basnight’s interest in transportation started when he was eight and roamed the streets in a “goat cart” pulled by a goat named Alabam.
He started public service in 1974 when he chaired the Dare County Tourism Bureau. In 1977, he was tapped for membership on the state’s Board of Transportation, a position he held until 1983.
In 1984, he was elected to the North Carolina Senate and served until 2011.
From 1993 to 2010, Basnight served as President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate. When he left the senate, he was the longest serving President Pro Tempore in the history of this state.
While the bridge ceremony focuses on Basnight’s transportation work, he also led the way for clean water and education.
Fearing’s last thank you was to Senator Marc Basnight “for your time, your talent and your service.”