If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

June Interviews

6/3 Gretchen Archer, Double Trouble
6/10 Kaye George, Deadly Sweet Tooth
6/17 Annette Dashofy, Til Death
6/24 Adam Meyer

Saturday Guest Bloggers

6/6 Mary Keliikoa
6/13 William Ade
6/20 Liz Milliron

WWK Bloggers:

6/27 Kait Carson
6/30 WWK Writers--What We're Reading Now


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

WWK is proud of our four Agatha nominees. Kaye George for Best Short Story--not her first time to be nominated, Connie Berry and Grace Topping for Best First Mystery Novel, and Annette Dashofy for Best Contemporary Novel--her fifth nomination! All are winners but without Agatha Teapots. Onto 20121!

Look for Kaye George and Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Kaye's story is "Life and Death on the Road" and Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Kaye George's second novel in the Vintage Sweets mystery series, Deadly Sweet Tooth, was released on June 2. Look for the interview here on June 10.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!


Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bonner Bridge

It was a dark and stormy night. (Really, it was!) I drove across the Bonner Bridge while holding my breath—you know, using the usual black humor we who love Hatteras Island brave when crossing the bridge. When I hit terra firma on Pea Island, I exhaled in relief. And then—I drove off the road.


I couldn’t see the road because it was covered in water. My Trail Blazer rocked and pitched—the reason I knew that I was unintentionally driving off-road. (Make a note here, folks, 4 wheel-drive is essential in the Outer Banks because roads can suddenly become nonexistent.)

What didn’t I know?

The road (Route 12, which encompasses the Bonner Bridge and is the only road onto Hatteras Island) had just been opened after being closed for days due to the amount of rain that had fallen during the previous week. I guess during the day the road could be seen even if covered by a sheet of water. But at night, no! I’m glad the road was open so that I could get onto Hatteras Island. The cost, though, could have been horrible had I not been knowledgeable of the road and the hazards.

My reason for relating this tale is that the Bonner Bridge/Route 12 through Pea Island is the only land/car access to Hatteras Island, and it is that connection which has resulted in a stalemate in replacing the Bonner Bridge.


Peas Island is a National Wildlife Refuge, which environmentalists wish to protect and preserve. Sounds like an admirable pursuit, right?

Here are a few facts.
  • The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is the only means of land access to Hatteras Island not only for residents but also for tourists, fishermen, and others who spend more than $300 million a year in the area.

  • The Bonner Bridge was built to allow direct access to Hatteras Island and was opened in 1963. At the time, the estimated lifespan of the bridge was 30 years. As it stands today, the Bonner Bridge has carried the entire vehicular traffic load between Hatteras Island and the rest of Dare County for almost 1 ½ times its originally intended lifespan. The bridge is now approaching its 16th year of duty beyond its initially projected retirement date back in 1993. In 1997, the state Department of Transportation estimated that the useful life of the bridge was only seven more years. That deadline came and went in 2004 with no definitive action on a replacement.

  • A North Carolina Department of Transportation Bridge Inspection Report from June, 2006, rated the condition of the existing bridge as "poor." To give an idea of the scope of that rating, on a scale starting at one as its lowest point and going up to 100, the Bonner Bridge rated a two, according to that inspection report.

  • This closure [of the bridge] would directly affect access, emergency response, emergency evacuation, and utility service for the residents of Hatteras Island and for the many people who visit each year.

  • Average daily traffic flow over the Bonner Bridge exceeds 5,000 vehicles per day, and that number can double to around 10,000 during summer vacation months.

The bridge must be replaced. There were eight options studied, but only three of the eight were considered. Option 1 replaced the existing bridge with land enhancements to avoid the situation I described at the beginning of this blog. Option 2 would build a parallel bridge slightly inland and connected to Pea Island to the southwest of the existing road and then join old Route 12 closer to Hatteras Island. Option 3 would build The Pamlico Sound Bridge Corridor—a 17.5 mile bridge bypassing Pea Island and connecting directly to Hatteras Island in Rodanthe, the option favored by environmentalists.

In December of 2010, after 17 years of debate and evaluation through numerous Environmental Impact Statements, the Federal Highway Administration decided to replace the bridge using Option 2. Option 1 was eliminated due to the engineering problems the existing bridge has incurred. Option 3 was eliminated due to excessive cost. The compromise between cost and environmental impact was necessary. With the existing bridge’s score of 2 on a scale of 100, human lives are at stake.

Soil erosion around bridge supports is the leading cause of bridge collapse and it is the reason for Bonner Bridge’s poor safety score.

  • Though engineers have not yet determined why the Minneapolis bridge failed, bridge experts said its collapse was not necessarily the result of a physical breakdown. Of the 1,502 recorded bridge failures between 1966 and 2005, almost 60 percent were caused by soil erosion around the underwater bridge supports, according to Jean-Louis Briaud, a civil engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute.    (Read more: An Amazing Bridge Collapse Statistic — Urban Workbench.

On July 1, 2011, the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association filed a lawsuit against the NC Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration challenging the December 2010 decision. The building phase of the new bridge would have taken 3.5 years. Now, no one knows if and when a new bridge will be built.

No one would argue that the 2010 decision was an optimal choice because there were none. The decision was a compromise, a necessary one to stave off impeding disaster.

As a writer, I focus on the aberration of murder, especially premeditated murder. I’m watching and waiting for the Bonner Bridge’s collapse. I’m asking myself what constitutes premeditated murder. And I’m hoping that no one dies.

Update: "Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to stop the project until the NEPA regulations are complied with. The judge could dismiss the complaint, schedule a hearing, issue an order from the bench, or a combination of actions. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Chief Judge Louise Wood Flanigan in New Bern. The summons served July 4 on the defendants must be answered within 21 days."  The Island Free Press

Let's pray the judge has enough fortitude to dismiss this complaint.


circuitmouse said...

My grandparents lived in Kill Devil Hills. You described a nightmare they and all the year-rounders knew well. What Providence had you cross over the bridge when you did, that no one else less skilled might have met with calamity.

E. B. Davis said...

Before anyone drives in the Outer Banks, check with the NC Department of Transportation and the Dare County website, which posts road conditions. Because I live around DC, I didn't think to check since we hadn't had bad weather. Unfortunately, for two days, the Outer Banks had had 12 inches of rain in a slow Northeaster, and I came through just after the road was opened.

I knew I'd gone off the road to the right, so it was a matter of heading left until I found the smooth road surface. Then, I slowed down. Having come off the bridge which drains, I hadn't anticipated the level of the water on the road in Pea Island.

The fact is that the 17.5 mile bridge proposed by the environmentalist is best case. But the cost is over 1 billion dollars that we just don't have. In our society, compromises must be made. Majority rules with minority rights--but not at the expense of human lives!

Pauline Alldred said...

Thank heavens you survived without injury. As you point out, visitors who aren't familiar with the area might not be so lucky. Sometimes a group focuses so exclusively on one point that the people in it fail to see the big picture. In fact, they don't see any other side. Fanatics can be dangerous.

E. B. Davis said...

You are so right, Pauline. It's up to the courts to put reason into these disputes. They must stop special interests in favor of the common good. This has gone on far too long!

Warren Bull said...

I wonder how many people who oppose the bridge actually drive over it. It would be a great place to set up a fatal accident in a book.

E. B. Davis said...

I often wonder how many of them drive over the bridge too, Warren. Some people commute to Bodie (was Body island and was sanitized) Island everyday via the bridge. Bodie Island in Nags Head has the only hospital on the islands and is the only direct way to the mainland.

I cross the bridge about 20 times per year. Another blog may stem from this one. I've taken to asking people how they approach the Bonner Bridge. Everyone thinks about the bridge collapsing in those few seconds before they drive over it.

Kara Cerise said...

Frightening experience! I think a lot of the infrastructure in the US is in desperate need of repair. Sometimes it takes a huge crisis before anything is done.

E. B. Davis said...

We've had a lot of bridges collapse, Minneapolis was just the one with the most fatalities, Kara. I used to work for EPA on the Clean Water Act. Our sewer systems are also in need of replacement since most were built as WPA projects during the depression. Yes-our infrastructure needs replacing and we don't seem to have the money. Of course, if we weren't overseas spending so much...but let's not get into that.

Warren Bull said...

When the Minneapolis bridge collapsed a semi driver swerved around a school bus full of children and plunged off the bridge into the river. The driver died. Many people believe that he risked (and lost) his life avoiding sending the children off the bridge.

E. B. Davis said...

I appreciate your comment Warren. In this situation, I don't want anyone to have to be a hero or a victim. There should be no need--17 years and we still have to wait, all the while knowing the bridge isn't safe and the lee time is 3.5 years before a new one can be built. The audacious phrase, How dare you! comes to mind. I'm really incensed that the courts let it go this long. A compromise should have been in place years ago, but we let special interests come before public safety. Yes, how dare them. And can we sue them if people die?

Donnell Ann Bell said...

E.B., sorry I'm late reading this post. I'm glad you weren't hurt. Excuse me, if 5000 people use this bridge and one of them dies, with people knowing it's unsafe, how is that not murder if one of them dies? If I'm not making sense, it's late, but this is extraordinary, and yes, the infrastructure vitally needs to be repaired, but with what money. Awaiting the judge's decision also. Nice report.

Anonymous said...

Not to foeget, part of the bridge was replaced nearly 20 years ago when a barge hit it.