RODANTHE, N.C. (WAVY) — After years and years of fighting between environmentalists and North Carolina state transportation leaders, shovels hit the sand in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge span.
The new parallel bridge will eventually replace the aging Bonner Bridge, and cross the Oregon Inlet.
“This is a historic moment to be able to finally put our shovels in the ground and say that construction of a new, 21st Century Bonner Bridge is underway,” said Governor Pat McCrory.
The original bridge, which was completed 52 years ago, created a connection between the Hatteras Island and mainland North Carolina.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation posted a collage of photos from construction on the original bridge, as well as a computer rendering for the new bridge, last week.
NCDOT says crews began preparing construction on the bridge replacement Feb. 23.
Officials say the new, $246 million bridge is being designed to last 100 years, and will feature a total of seven spans. The bridge is expected to open in the fall of 2018.
McCrory called the new bridge “a lifeline for Hatteras Island.”
“Public safety is the number one reason there’s been an urgency to make this happen. And today is a day of celebration — of something that took 20 years too long. But I’m very proud of my team that made this happen.”
In 2011, NCDOT hired a contractor to design the new bridge. However, lawsuits from environmental groups stalled the project until a settlement was reached last year.