By Rob Morris on February 7, 2019
Two days after Dare County commissioners failed to reach a consensus, a state Board of Transportation committee has recommended naming the new bridge over Oregon Inlet for former Senate President Marc Basnight.
The N.C. Board of Transportation’s Road, Bridge and Ferry Naming Committee made the decision on Wednesday, according to Tim Haas, communications officer with Division 1 of the state Department of Transportation.
A sign underneath the name would say Oregon Inlet. The remaining section of the old bridge, which will be used as a fishing pier after the rest is torn down, would keep the name Herbert C. Bonner.
The full Board of Transportation will vote on the recommendation at their next monthly meeting, March 7.
Basnight was the top choice in a Dare County survey, but the Board of Commissioners failed to vote unanimously Monday on naming the new bridge over Oregon Inlet in honor of the longtime state Senate leader.
The Basnight proposal earned three of five votes from the Board of Commissioners. The state policy on naming a bridge, highway or ferry calls for a unanimous vote by the jurisdiction where it is located.
Dare sent the resoltion to the naming committee anyway, along with an application and explanation of why Basnight deserved the honor, according to The Outer Banks Sentinel, and the panel approved it.
Last month, Commissioner Ervin Bateman proposed naming the bridge for Basnight, but only after gauging public opinion.
People were invited vote in an online survey, and Basnight garnered 309, or about 48 percent of the total. Herbert C. Bonner, the name of the old bridge, was the choice of 266 people, with other names, including simply Oregon Inlet, receiving far fewer than either one.
An unscientific reader survey by The Outer Banks Voice drew 3,290 votes. Basnight was the third choice. Oregon Inlet was the name most chosen, followed by Bonner. The Voice survey software allows only one vote per IP address.
On Monday, Bateman proposed a resolution to name the new span the “Marc Basnight Oregon Inlet Bridge.” The proposal also recommended including a plaque about Bonner on the 1,000 feet of the old bridge that will be left behind as a fishing pier after demolition.
With Rob Ross absent and Jim Tobin recused, the vote was Bateman, Chairman Bob Woodard and Vice Chairman Wally Overman in favor, with Commissioners Danny Couch and Steve House opposed.
“This has kept me up at night, but it has come down to a constituent issue with me,” said Couch, who represents Hatteras Island. ” I support leaving things the way they are, Herbert C. Bonner. That’s my feelings. I’m representing my constituency, District 4.”
House said he favored the name Bonner-Basnight Bridge to recongnize the state’s past and modern history.
Basnight was a state senator for 26 years and the longest-serving Senate president pro tem in the state’s history. He retired in 2011 because of failing health. He was known for consistently delivering for his district, which includes Dare County, as well as leading the state on environmental and education initiatives.
Bonner was a U.S. congressman from 1940 to 1965. He worked to establish the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and played a key role in securing funding for the old bridge, which opened in 1963.
The new bridge is scheduled to open by the middle of this month. The Bonner Bridge Replacement Project began in March 2016. The new $252 million bridge is 2.8 miles long and 90 feet high at its apex and is designed for a 100-year life span.
A community day is set for Saturday, Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the public will be invited to walk or bicyle across the bridge.