- Special Sections
- Public Notices
To the editor: Probably everyone knows that on Dec. 21, 2007, Federal Judge Louise Flanagan opened the door for the N.C. Department of Transportation to build a new bridge to Sunset Beach by denying an injunction to prevent DOT from proceeding.
Yet nothing is final. NCDOT will wait for the judge’s written opinion before deciding whether or not to award the construction contract.
Furthermore, the State will wait to see if the plaintiffs take the lawsuit that they filed on Oct. 4, 2007, to trial. The lawsuit seeks supplemental environmental impact studies in regard to small and recent changes in the bridge plans, some made by NCDOT at the request of the plaintiffs themselves.
There is misunderstanding about several issues. Neither letters of support for prompt building of a bridge nor local online dialogue had any bearing on the judge’s decision. The judge reviewed documents from the plaintiffs and defendants and then ruled according to law.
More significant is the misunderstanding about individuals in favor of rapidly building a bridge. Opponents do not realize supporters of a fixed-span bridge know a less-imposing structure would be more in line with a 4.5 mile-long island.
We, too, care about appearance. Yet after nearly three decades of delay, there are several core reasons why supporters favor building a bridge immediately.
The first is safety. No one on Sunset Beach is ever safe because of the old swing bridge. Bridges lower than 65 feet high must open. Openings jeopardize safety, inconvenience both vehicular and boat traffic and cost far more money to operate and maintain.
Another reason is the unacceptable fact that if NCDOT were ordered to build a different type of bridge, seven to nine years would elapse before it was finished
Neither the more than 150,000 people who visit the island each year nor the existing bridge can wait that long. Besides, to my knowledge, drawbridges no longer are built across the Intracoastal Waterway.
If a high-rise bridge is built, nothing on the island itself should change, except safety. I completely disagree with one person who said, after the ruling, “This tiny, gentle, windswept place will never be the same. The Sunset Beach island of 10,000 childhoods will soon be nothing more than a happy but fading memory.”
I am convinced the fears of opponents of the bridge will never come true. The island won’t turn into another Myrtle Beach through radical changes of zoning laws, and there will not be significantly more visitors because the number of beach houses is a constant.
The peaceful east end of Sunset Beach, the strand in front of beach houses, and uninhabited Bird Island to the west will only change through natural erosion and accretion—not from a high-rise bridge.