Keep a Keen Eye Crossing Oregon Inlet
The fall of the bridge in Minnesota has brought strong media and public attention to the fact that our US roadway infrastructure is in serious need of repair and rebuild. The national roadway/highway system was originally built during the 1950s and provided access to points across the country including places such as Cape Hatteras. The Herbert C Bonner (Oregon Inlet) bridge was originally built in 1963. As with many other bridges across the country, the bridge was built during a time of rapid infrastructure construction and growth in the country. Over the years, shifts in national priorities and Federal budget allocations have left our US infrastructure at risk. The issue with the Oregon Inlet Bridge is a classic case of indecision, budget misallocation, and political nonsense. All of which will eventually lead to replacement after a collapse. The likely failure scenario will be during a major weather event; therefore, the risk to human life may be reduced, and this may be part of the equation which planners and decision makers consider. They will not take immediate action because, though the risk of failure is high, the loss of life estimate is small. I would hope this is NOT a valid assumption; however I cannot be sure. Considering “group think” though, this assumption is likely correct since ultimate responsibility could be diluted.
I recently was made aware of this NC DOT Executive Summary which highlights a recent safety and structural integrity assessment of the bridge. The summary includes a number of photos highlighting damage, details of its "POOR" rating, and estimated remaining lifespan. The report notes 10 years lifespan IF the recommended repairs are made. Since December 2006, when the summary was written, I have not seen any construction at the Bridge, and with an estimated repair cost of $46 million, replacement appears to be a better option then repair. The report notes that the bridge is "safe" for public traffic, but did not a recent assessment say the same thing as reported by the media regarding the Minnesota Bridge? The last sentence of the Bonner Bridge summary says it all: "It is anticipated that if these repairs are made properly by an experienced contractor, the Bonner Bridge will be capable of remaining in service and functioning under current design loads for the next ten years." Yea, that's a big IF regarding repair and the estimated cost of $46 million! Nothing is happening yet!
Literally, decision makers...get off your ASSES and do something! Its almost sickly "comical" in how indecision and lack of action permeate this issue.
See Replace the Bridge Now to remain informed and lend support to this effort. For those visiting the OBX, and especially the windsurfing enthusiast, when the wind is blowing hard and you are racing south to catch a session on Hatteras Island, the last thing you want to, or even should, think about is whether you will "make it across the bridge!"