DARE COUNTY -

Gov. Pat McCrory is calling for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge to reopen as soon as possible, as well as the construction of a new bridge.

On Friday morning, the governor toured the Bonner Bridge, which carries Highway 12 across the Oregon Inlet, and is the only road link between Hatteras Island and the mainland. The N.C. Department of Transportation closed the bridge Tuesday due to safety concerns from erosion.

During a news conference, Gov. McCrory said he not only wants the bridge to reopen as soon as possible, he wants crews to begin building a new bridge as well.

Secretary John E. Skvarla III of the Governor's Office issued a statement Friday in regards to building a new bridge.

"The Department of Transportation has secured all state environmental permits it needs to begin construction of the new bridge," said Skvarla. "The only thing standing between those residents and a new bridge is the [Southern Environmental Law Center]."

Gov. McCrory has also declared a State of Emergency due to the Bonner Bridge's closing.

Dredging at the Bonner Bridge was originally scheduled to begin Friday afternoon. But the NCDOT later said the dredging will begin Saturday morning, and is expected to last two days.

According to the NCDOT, the Dredge Alaska will begin moving sand from the main navigation channel of the Oregon Inlet to the area underneath the bridge, where there has been too much sand erosion to the support structures.

The NCDOT will scan the bridge’s supports after dredging is complete to determine the next steps necessary to reopen the bridge.

Officials said the bridge is 50 years old, 20 years past its original life expectancy.

The state has also established additional ferry runs on its Stumpy Point/Rodanthe and Swan Quarter/Ocracoke routes to help increase access to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands during the closure of the Bonner Bridge.

Effective immediately, departures from Stumpy Point are at 11 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., and departures from Rodanthe are at midnight and 1:30 a.m. The new schedule for the emergency route is now as follows:

•Departing from Stumpy Point: 3:30a.m., 5:00, 6:30, 8:00, 9:30, 11:00, 12:30 p.m., 2:00, 3:30, 5:00, 9:30, and 11:00.

•Departing from Rodanthe: 1:30a.m., 6:00, 7:30, 9:00, 10:30, noon, 1:30 p.m, 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, 7:30, and midnight.

Earlier this week, the NCDOT awarded a $1.6 million contract to Carolina Bridge Company, Inc., of Orangeburg, S.C., for emergency repairs on the bridge.