DARE CO. -- The cost of getting the Bonner Bridge safe enough to re-open this weekend ranges in the millions of dollars, according to new numbers from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
A spokeswoman for the department said the NCDOT has paid $1.28 million so far to get the bridge safe enough to re-open and to operate an emergency ferry route while the bridge was closed.
A bulk of that figure comes from the $600,000 the department paid to dredge near the bridge to compact enough sand to hold a loose support structure in place.
NCDOT says it also paid $68,000 to drive two test piles into the sound floor late last week.
As that work was being done, Hatteras Island residents were traveling between the island and the mainland using an emergency ferry system set up in the wake of the Bonner Bridge's closure.
A spokesman for the ferry system said the emergency route cost an estimated $30,000 each day. Multiple that figure by 12 days the ferry operated and the ferry service cost taxpayers $360,000.
The department has also awarded an emergency contract for long-term fixes to the support structure on the south side of the bridge, which was deemed unsafe, totaling $1.6 million. Work on that emergency contract is expected to begin mid-week.
A spokeswoman said a barge has arrived from Virginia to the construction staging site and is waiting to load sand bags that will be placed around the base of the support structure.
Once the sand bags are in place, engineers will place concrete barriers, called A-Jacks, around the sandbags in hopes of stopping large-scale erosion around the support structure.
As of Monday afternoon, the sand bags were still being filled in preparation of being taken out to the bridge.
Other agencies and organizations say they expect to feel a financial impact from the bridge's closure, too.
The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau said it expects sales tax it collects from stores and restaurants to be down because of the bridge's closure.
Warren Judge, Chairman of the Dare County Commissioners, said the county manager and county finance director will also be totaling up costs that the county incurred as a result of the bridge's closure.
Both agencies expect to know solid numbers in mid-January.