The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, are currently in active, confidential discussions regarding replacing the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet with a new parallel bridge while continuing to develop a long-term solution to the transportation challenges along the stretch of N.C. 12 south of the bridge to Rodanthe.Following a complex ruling issued by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, both sides determined that it was best to move forward with confidential discussions to resolve the bridge dispute. NCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration decided to temporarily suspend work on the permanent Pea Island Bridge construction until those talks and a detailed review of the recent court ruling are complete. Last week, NCDOT also met with the N.C. 12 merger team, comprised of state and federal resource and regulatory agencies, to brief members on the status of the project and solicit feedback on a new concept that is under consideration."We remain committed to building a new parallel bridge over the Oregon Inlet to ensure the safety of Outer Banks residents and visitors," said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. "We have been in conversations with the SELC about the Bonner Bridge project for more than a year and believe these recent proactive discussions are a positive step toward a permanent solution.""We are continuing to work together with NCDOT to resolve this matter with a reliable, long-term solution that ensures the safety of the traveling public and avoids the problems that currently threaten N.C. 12," said Derb Carter, Director of the North Carolina offices of the Southern Environmental Law Center. Because of the confidential nature of these discussions, no additional statements will be released on this issue from NCDOT or conservation groups until conversations are complete and the issue is resolved.