Five weeks after a federal appellate court ruled against the state Department of Transportation’s plan to replace the N.C. 12 Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet, DOT says it will suspend work on another Outer Banks bridge.
DOT cited the Aug. 5 ruling Wednesday when it said it would suspend construction on an N.C. 12 bridge in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, about seven miles south of Oregon Inlet. The action will allow DOT “to continue to review” the Bonner Bridge ruling, DOT said.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that DOT cannot build its 2.8-mile replacement for the deteriorating Bonner Bridge unless it proves there’s no way to avoid damaging the Pea Island refuge. A federal judge in North Carolina will hold new hearings on the issue in a lawsuit filed against DOT by the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing two conservation organizations.
The lawsuit prevented DOT from starting construction on the new Bonner Bridge after it awarded a contract for the job in 2011. The environmentalists propose a 17-mile-long bridge that would take N.C. 12 into Pamlico Sound, bypassing the wildlife refuge.
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Construction on the Pea Island bridge began earlier this year, to elevate 2.4 miles of N.C. 12 in an erosion-prone area where a temporary steel bridge was erected in 2011 after Hurricane Inlet sliced a new inlet through the island. DOT plans a similar N.C. 12 bridge farther south at Rodanthe.