Dare County, N.C. (WTKR)- After several lawsuits and years of delays, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory broke ground Tuesday on the new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge in the Outer Banks.
Preliminary work on the new span began in February, but this is the official start of construction for the new bridge.
The Bonner Bridge is the only highway connecting Hatteras Island to mainland Dare County. The new bridge will run parallel to the existing bridge over the Oregon Inlet.
Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony marks a long-awaited milestone.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation began the process of replacing the aging Bonner Bridge back in 1989.
A contract was signed in 2011 to design and construct a new bridge, but it was stalled by litigation filed by environmental groups.
The legal challenges were resolved in the summer of 2015 after an agreement was reached.
Beth Midgett helped lead a citizen group fighting for a new bridge for nearly a decade. She was there on Tuesday for the groundbreaking and reflected on the journey.
"It was frustrating. Incredibly frustrating at times. There were days when I thought it would never happen, that we might study this thing literally to death," she commented.
Blake O'Sullivan lives and works on Hatteras Island. He says the access the Bonner Bridge provides is crucial as he plans for the future.
"Thinking about starting a family it's a big issue: you want to have access to a hospital just like anyone else," he told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo.
The new bridge is designed to have a 100-year life span and is scheduled to open to traffic in Nov. 2018. The overall project, including the demolition of the existing bridge, is scheduled to be finished in Sept. 2019.
The project is expected to cost almost $250 million.