North Carolina

The Bonner Bridge replacement will likely get a new name, honoring a different politician

Bonner Bridge Replacement Project Visualization

This video provides a visualization of what the new Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet in Dare County will look like once construction is complete. It was created by HDR Engineering Inc., the design firm working with PCL Civil Constructors Inc. on th
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This video provides a visualization of what the new Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet in Dare County will look like once construction is complete. It was created by HDR Engineering Inc., the design firm working with PCL Civil Constructors Inc. on th

People accustomed to taking the Bonner Bridge to Hatteras Island may need to get used to new name: Basnight Bridge.

A state Board of Transportation committee has recommended naming the new bridge over Oregon Inlet after Marc Basnight, who represented the area in the state Senate from 1984 until his resignation for health reasons in 2011. Basnight, a Democrat from Manteo, was the Senate leader from 1993 until Democrats lost the majority in 2010 and was a champion for replacing the Bonner Bridge.

The full Board of Transportation is expected to approve the name at its meeting March 7.

The new 2.8-mile bridge is expected to open to traffic sometime next week, carrying N.C. 12 as high as 90 feet in the air over the inlet. A blessing and wreath-laying ceremony are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the bridge’s highest point, and the public will be able to walk or ride bicycles on the bridge from the north end from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A more formal bridge dedication will take place in early April. By then, the new signs may be in place, per the Board of Transportation naming committee’s recommendation: “Marc Basnight Bridge” with “Oregon Inlet” on another sign underneath.

The old bridge, which opened in 1963, will be demolished, except for a 1,000-foot section at the south end that will remain in place as a pedestrian walkway and possibly a fishing pier, if federal agencies grant the necessary permits, said NCDOT spokesman Tim Hass. Demolition will begin as soon as the new bridge opens to traffic and should be finished by the end of the year, Hass said.

The pieces of the dismantled bridge will be taken to artificial reef sites along the North Carolina coast, he said.

The remnants of the bridge will still be named for Herbert C. Bonner, who represented the area in Congress from 1940 until his death in 1965.

Basnight was born and raised in Manteo and served on the state Board of Transportation for seven years until just before he was elected to the Senate. He owns Lone Cedar Cafe, a seafood restaurant on the causeway between Manteo and Nags Head.

Dare County commissioners requested the bridge be named for Basnight, although by a 3-2 vote. One commissioner thought the bridge should retain the Bonner name, while another wanted a hybrid of both names, according to The Coastland Times. Town councils in Manteo, Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head also wrote in support of the Basnight name.

“As part of his efforts to improve our roads and highways, Senator Basnight fiercely advocated for a replacement to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, a critical lifeline for the people of Hatteras Island,” wrote Benjamin Cahoon, the mayor of Nags Head. “He remained resolute for several decades, working to ensure this critical infrastructure was replaced.”

The naming of the new bridge will mean taking Basnight’s name off N.C. 12, which was designated the “Marc Basnight Highway” from Whalebone Junction south to the ferry dock in Ocracoke Village in the 1980s. State policy prohibits NCDOT from naming more than one road, bridge or ferry in a person’s honor, and the Board of Transportation committee recommended rescinding the Basnight name on the highway so it could be used on the bridge.

The Bonner Bridge has been in use for nearly 56 years. NCDOT says its $252 million replacement is designed to last 100.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 19 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.


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