OBX Bridge Replacement Project Finds Itself Mired In Litigation

While construction crews continued making steady progress repairing the damage Hurricane Irene inflicted upon Route 12 in the Outer Banks in late August (updates can be found here and here), lawyers for the N.C. Department of Transportation were busy responding to a complaint filed by two national non-profit organizations seeking to put the kibosh on the State’s current plan for replacing the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, which spans the Oregon Inlet and connects Hatteras Island with the rest of the Outer Banks.

Plaintiffs Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association filed their Complaint on July 1, 2011 alleging, among other things, that NCDOT violated various federal environmental laws in failing to “rigorously explore and objectively evaluate” alternatives to the bridge’s replacement, including a “no action” alternative that would scrap the bridge entirely in favor of utilizing high-speed ferries.   NCDOT lawyers answered the Complaint on September 6, denying that the Department violated any federal laws and asserting that Plaintiffs had failed to state a claim against NCDOT upon which relief could be granted.  Both the Complaint and the Answer are posted on NCDOT’s “Bonner Bridge Repair and Replacement Projects” webpage.  Additional coverage by the North Beach Sun can be found here.

Incidentally, the replacement project went out to bid between the filing of the Complaint and the filing of the Answer.   Specifically, in late July, NCDOT awarded a $215.8 million contract to the design-build team of PCL Civil Constructors Inc. and HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas; the Department’s press release can be found here.

As of the date of this blog post, the Plaintiffs had not sought any preliminary injunctive relief to stop the design process in its tracks.  I’ll keep my eye out for developments in the litigation and keep you posted as this matter unfolds.

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