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HATTERAS ISLAND, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina transportation officials say the Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks could re-open next week if dredged sand placed around exposed pilings compacts well.

The transportation department said crews performed underwater sonar surveys and divers examined part of the bridge Wednesday.

Dare County Commissioner Allen Burrus says the initial indications from the review were better than expected.

Transportation district engineer Jerry Jennings says the bridge could reopen next week or as late as March.

The bridge was closed Dec. 3 because sand was washing away from the bridge supports. NCDOT awarded a $1.6 million contract to Carolina Bridge Company Inc. of Orangeburg, S.C. last week for emergency repairs on the bridge. A dredge dug 30,000 cubic yards of sand over the weekend from the Oregon Inlet channel and put it around pilings.

An emergency ferry route was set up between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point, a more than two-hour trip. The emergency ferry route will continue seven days a week as long as service is needed, NCDOT officials said.

AP-WF-12-12-13 1429GMT

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