Delayed for years by environmental lawsuits, construction of a replacement for the Bonner Bridge, the slender thread that connects the North Carolina Outer Banks to the mainland, is finally underway. The Virginian-Pilot had this report (see: "Decades later, new Bonner Bridge construction finally begins," by Jeff Hampton).

"The new bridge is expected to last 100 years after it opens in 2018, and it will be the state’s first with stainless steel reinforcement rods in the concrete to make it more durable to the harsh elements," the paper reported. "The concrete pilings range in length from 110 feet to 130 feet. The majority of the pilings will be 36 inches square. Pilings used in the shallow water near shores and over marshes and land will be round, hollow columns 54 inches in diameter, according to a release from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office."

How important is the Bonner Bridge? For residents, said local resident Beth Midgett, who helped lead a local effort to overcome opposition to the project, the bridge is a lifeline. Said Midgett to local station WTKR News Channel 3, "Our power runs under it. Our data cables run under it. Without it, we are literally a third-world country." (See: "Construction on new Bonner Bridge gets underway," by Erica Greenway and Todd Carillo).

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has posted a web page for the Bonner Bridge project here (see: "Bonner Bridge Replacement Project"). "The N.C. Department of Transportation awarded a design-build contract in July 2011 to PCL Civil Constructors Inc., with HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas as the lead design firm," says the NCDOT "fact sheet." "Stainless reinforcing steel and high-durability concrete will be used to protect against corrosion from the harsh salt air and water. The high-performance concrete is the primary reason for the bridge’s increased life span. The concrete that will cover the reinforcing steel will be thicker and made of more dense and less permeable concrete than what is on the existing bridge."

"The high-rise portion of the bridge will be 3,500 feet long with seven navigational spans, averaging about 300 feet in width each, which will provide more options for navigation under the bridge," said NCDOT. "Comparatively, the arched high rise of the existing bridge provides for only one navigational span with an opening of 130 feet."

North Carolina Highway 12 (NC 12), the road that crosses the old Bonner Bridge and will eventually cross the new one, is a continual source of drama on the Outer Banks, subject to flooding and erosion in almost any significant storm. For updates and news, check the NCDOT's NC 12 web page (see: "N.C. Highway 12").