August 16, 2005

Bonner Bridge replacement receives legislators' attention (OB Sentinel)

Printable Version: "Late Friday afternoon, the N.C. Senate made changes to the proposed toll road bill to fix a glitch caused by an earlier version which now, if passed and ratified, may allow plans to replace Herbert C. Bonner Bridge move forward. The bill now has been sent back to the House for approval.

The original proposed legislation that passed its first reading June 19 in the Senate was an attempt by N.C. Sen. Marc Basnight to move the project forward after it has been stalled for years. But after the vote, it was discovered that the language used would make the project ineligible for federal funds because the provision didn't comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements.In a July 28 letter from John F. Sullivan of the Federal Highway Administration to State Secretary of Transportation Lyndo Tippett, Sullivan noted that: 'It is our read of the proposed legislation that the bill, if passed and becomes law, would essentially direct the NCDOT to enter into a contract to replace the Bonner Bridge in its general proximity of the existing bridge. At this time, we could not agree to fund this contract since NEPA is not complete. The proposed state law dictates an outcome while there is an on-going project to determine the most reasonable and feasible alternative that meets the purpose and need of the project. In addition, there are other NEPA and Federal requirements that may not be met depending on the exact location of the project termini. Again, FHWA could not participate in the proposed contract at this time.'

In response, the Senate re-worded the bill to state that the N.C. Department of Transportation shall implement all reasonable measures to expedite completion of environmental reviews required by the NEPA. It also stipulates that within 90 days of receiving a thumbs up from the Federal Highway Administration, DOT will let the contract to a private contractor to begin design and replacement of the bridge."

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