Hatteras Island, N.C. - In a visit to the Outer Banks Wednesday, North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata says the Bonner Bridge is sitting on "borrowed time" and needs to be replaced.
The Bonner Bridge Replacement project is on hold because of two lawsuits filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center in July 2011 and August 2013.
Those lawsuits, filed on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, want the project to be halted based on environmental concerns.
"We have spent roughly 15 million dollars in repairs, in lost construction costs and attorney's fees on this existing bridge," Tata stated.
Until the lawsuits are resolved, NCDOT cannot move forward with the plan to replace the bridge and must instead continue to make costly repairs that offer few long term solutions.
"We're inspecting it every day. We're looking hard at the Bonner Bridge and if it ever becomes a safety issue, then we are going to have to make the tough call," Tata explained.
"If you just continue to kick the can down the road, there will come a time when we've got to declare this thing structurally deficient."
The Bonner Bridge carries nearly 13,000 vehicles a day during the peak season. If the bridge were to be put out of commission, ferries would be the only other option for travel between Hatteras Island and mainland Dare County.
"I would put the Bonner Bridge in the Top 5% of transportation problems that we face across the state," Tata explained.
To read more about the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project and associated lawsuits, click here.