Bonner Bridge closure triggers concern about well-being, economy on Hatteras


by Brian Farrell, 13News Now

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 12:57 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 1:14 AM

DARE COUNTY -- North Carolina Department of Transportation closed the Bonner Bridge Tuesday due to safety concerns.

The closure is causing other concerns for people who live on Hatteras Island, including Gary Schena.

"It's putting people's lives at risk, and it's putting the whole economy of Hatteras Island at risk," said Schena by telephone.

In June, doctors diagnosed Schena with Systemic Mastocytosis, a disease, which he explained makes him prone to anaphylactic shock. Schena already has had trips to the hospital on the mainland because of the disease.

"Not having the bridge there, you know, puts me at greater risk of fatal incident or fatal shock, because I would not be able to get the emergency care that I would need if I did go into shock," Schena shared.

He and his wife, Carolyn, own Studio 12 in Avon, an art gallery and working studio. Because the communities throughout Hatteras are tourist communities, the ferry-only access now in place poses a threat to many livelihoods.

"It's a two-and-a-half-hour ride on the ferry, and that's not including the wait to get on and, you know, bad weather. They could cancel the ferry or just have more delays," Schena told 13News Now. "We'll be closing our doors, I suspect, just because there's no one here really to be open for."

"It's DOT's plan, and its commitment to this faulty plan, that's put these people in the position," said attorney Julie Youngman who is with Southern Environmental Law Center.

The group challenged North Carolina Department of Transportation's plan to replace the Bonner Bridge, supporting, instead, a new bridge that would cross Pamlico Sound.

"DOT is determined to build new bridges in the exact same places over Oregon Inlet and along NC-12 that are going to continue to cause the exact same problems for decades to come," Youngman said.  "DOT is currently having to rebuild sections of road and build -- raise -- sections of the road up onto bridges as storms come through and wash out the road, and DOT's current plan to try to maintain the route in the same place is turning a wildlife refuge into a continual construction zone."

"It's definitely raised concerns enough to possibly evaluate whether living on this island is a viable or smart thing to do in the future," Schena shared.