Marc Basnight Bridge Provides Reliable Crossing for Outer Banks Traffic

The new 2.8-mile bridge over the Oregon Inlet of North Carolina’s Outer Banks replaces the aging Bonner Bridge, which is now being removed.

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The Marc Basnight Bridge, a segmental concrete box girder bridge named in honor of Outer Banks resident and former North Carolina State Senator Marc Basnight, has two traffic lanes with shoulders for pedestrians and cyclists. It was placed parallel to the existing 56-year-old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, connecting Hatteras and Bodie islands.

The $252 million bridge opened to traffic on Feb. 25, marking the end of the first phase of a larger transportation project. The second phase is under construction, a 2.4-mile bridge that will bypass a portion of NC State Route 12 (NC 12) at on-going risk of flooding and wash-out because of shoreline erosion. It is south of the Basnight Bridge, terminating in the community of Rodanthe.

“The new bridge over Oregon Inlet and the Rodanthe Bridge will help maintain reliable access to Hatteras Island for its residents, vacation home owners, and tourists, as well as the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and parts of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore,” said John Page, project manager and environmental lead for WSP USA.

“The Basnight Bridge includes deeper foundations, stainless steel rebar, and other features to facilitate a longer life in the marine environment,” Page said. “It also includes wider shoulders and a longer series of navigation spans to account for the shifting natural gorge in the inlet.”

An aerial view of the construction of the Basnight Bridge, taken on April 18, 2018, which is parallel to the then-active Bonner Bridge that is now being dismantled.

A Long Relationship

WSP, on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), has performed numerous roles for the planning of the bridge dating back to 1989, beginning with a feasibility study, a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), a bridge-type study to determine the most practical approach for replacing the original structure, and the initial plans and specifications.

Additional WSP services for NCDOT included conceptual and preliminary design, public involvement, traffic forecasting, and community, economic, recreational and cultural resource impact assessments.

With increasing threats to NC 12 from shoreline erosion south of Oregon Inlet, the project area was expanded to encompass NC 12 through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to Rodanthe. Added to planning and environmental impact studies were multiple alternatives for maintaining a reliable NC 12, while minimizing impacts to the Refuge and Rodanthe.

WSP prepared two supplemental draft EISs and a final EIS for the client, as well as the record of decision (ROD) that was approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2010. The final EIS selected the location for the new bridge over Oregon Inlet and called for final decisions on future phases south of the bridge to be based on the outcomes of an on-going coastline monitoring program. The Phase II Rodathe Bridge was selected based on a new environmental assessment and a 2016 amendment to the 2010 ROD.

Lawsuits filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center delayed the start of construction the Basnight Bridge until a settlement was reached in 2015. Construction on the new bridge began in March 2016.

During Basnight Bridge construction, the firm provided construction inspection services for the new bridge, and structural monitoring of the existing Bonner Bridge.

“The planning, design and construction of this magnificent new structure has lasted three decades, and NCDOT overcame many challenges, particularly in resolving environmental lawsuits,” said Pamela Townsend, Southeast regional manager for transportation at WSP USA. “WSP was proud to serve the department in a variety of roles over many years to complete this critical link in the transportation system of the Outer Banks.”

One way WSP helped develop a Future Ready™ transportation solution to a growing concern for the Outer Banks was through bringing together the contributions of a multidisciplinary team that included community planners, economists, terrestrial and marine biologists, underwater archaeologists, historians, roadway and structural engineers, coastal engineers, hydrologists, air and noise impact analysts and lawyers. Team members included WSP staff, subcontractors, client staff, and FHWA staff.

©WSP USA

John Page (right) joined North Carolina Transportation Secretary James Trogdon at the Marc Basnight Bridge ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 3. Page was instrumental in planning the new bridge construction over the past three decades.

Satisfying Work

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held on April 2 celebrated the completion of the Marc Basnight Bridge project. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and State Transportation Secretary James Trogdon joined Outer Banks community leaders and members of the project team at the celebration.

NCDOT passed a resolution to name the new bridge in honor of Basnight on March 7. Basnight was unable to attend the ceremony, but his daughters represented him at the event and read a handwritten letter from the former lawmaker, thanking the participants for the recognition.

In February, shortly before the bridge was named, NCDOT hosted a community celebration attended by representatives of NCDOT, the Dare County Commission, and the National Parks Service. Following their remarks, residents and visitors to the Outer Banks were invited to walk and bike across the new bridge.

Reflecting on his role on the project, Page said he was grateful to have an opportunity to have an impact on a project that will bring long-term benefits to the community while protecting the dynamic environment of a barrier island, national wildlife refuge and seashore that is subject to multiple environmental protection laws.

“It was satisfying to work on a complex, challenging environmental project where ongoing problem solving led to a good transportation decision, and provided me with an opportunity to learn so much about this location,” Page said. “I came away with a comprehensive knowledge of the area’s history, ecology, coastal processes, and the daily concerns and issues of project stakeholders.”

Also on the Outer Banks, WSP is currently assisting NCDOT with its efforts to move the Mid-Currituck Bridge project to construction. In April the bridge, which crosses the Currituck Sound, received a ROD from FHWA. WSP prepared the project’s EIS and other planning studies. Page also served as project manager and environmental lead for this assignment.

“We’re pleased to support North Carolina DOT on the Mid-Currituck Bridge, and look forward to the day when that bridge too will open to traffic,” Townsend said.

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©WSP USA

The new Basnight Bridge, as seen from the Bodie Island side of the bridge during the ribbon-cutting celebration. In the foreground is the now-closed Bonner Bridge.