What’s in a name? For some on Hatteras Island, the name of the new Oregon Inlet bridge has become a symbol of feeling unheard and unimportant in the eyes of Dare County and the state.
On Thursday, the state Board of Transportation meets in Raleigh and will likely give the new bridge, which opened Feb. 25, a new name. The $285 million span replaces the 56-year-old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.
After a public survey and endorsements from several Outer Banks towns, the Dare Board of Commissioners last month voted 3-2 to name the span the Marc Basnight Bridge. Basnight, a local restauranteur, is a former state Senate leader who served from 1984 to 2011.
Many of Hatteras Island’s 5,000 year-round residents say they oppose the name-change. Resident Jayson Collier recently launched a “KEEP it Bonner,” Facebook page, quickly grabbing more than 1,600 “likes.”
A petition started last week to keep the name had nearly 1,300 signatures on Monday.
“Too much of our history is being disregarded and our voices are being ignored,” one resident wrote on the petition.
Collier said the county’s survey, which received about 800 votes, wasn’t well publicized. The county reported 309 votes for naming the bridge after Basnight and 266 for keeping it Bonner. Herbert C. Bonner was a U.S. Congressman instrumental in getting the bridge built.
“We feel strongly that sufficient awareness wasn’t brought to the public and that if a more thorough polling had been conducted, the commissioners would have realized the overwhelming opposition to their vote,” Collier wrote on the KEEP it Bonner page.
A survey conducted by Atlantic Media & Research of registered Hatteras Island voters shows the opposition to changing the bridge name is, indeed, overwhelming.
The survey polled 221 voters on the nights of Feb. 27 and Feb. 28 and during the day on March 1 and 2.
The poll found Hatteras Island voters want Bonner over Basnight by a 10-1 margin.
- Click here to read the survey
KEEP it Bonner organizers plan to deliver the petition and its roughly “80 pages of very constructive feedback and requests” to the NCDOT board and Gov. Roy Cooper ahead of Thursday’s meeting in Raleigh.