Back in January the Florida Department of Transportation presented this design to the Fort Myers Beach town council as part of its foot-of-the-bridge redesign. Due to feedback from the community this design, and a design that included a cantilever that would have expanded the bridge out for pedestrians, have both been spiked.
The cantilever option was being considered for the side of the bridge that currently does not have a walkover. It would have expanded the bridge out toward the water for pedestrians, after a lane now used for bicyclists (and buses) would be converted to a second lane of full-on traffic. The council was originally under the impression, from previous presentations, that the project would include a walkway – on both sides of the bridge – for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The only bridge design option the town council saw in January is the one in the picture below. It was being considered as the most likely option by the state if the cantilever option was shot down. At the time of the January presentation, the cantilever option was getting a closer look from the Department of Transportation in Tallahassee due to the building collapse in South Florida and other issues around the country with bridges. The state was conducting a corrosion inspection.
FDOT spokesman Adam Rose told Beach Talk Radio News this week that the department has determined that the cantilever option is not viable. “Part of the reason for this determination involves the increase of maintenance costs, potential decrease of load capacity, and the overall decrease of the lifespan of the bridge. Our structures department reported that adding to an existing structure can generally be accompanied by a decrease in lifespan to any bridge as well as increasing maintenance costs. After the department’s evaluation, the bridge is in good health but will be affected if altered.”
So does that mean the final bridge design will be the one presented in January? The one that moves all the pedestrian and bicycle traffic, traveling in both directions, to one side of the bridge and includes two oncoming lanes of regular traffic. Rose says no.
Rose says due to feedback from the community, the entire design is being looked at. “At this time the team is re-evaluating what changes can be made to further help the community, including travel lanes, bike/bus lanes, and sidewalk possibilities. These adjustments are being driven by the comments that were received during the hearing period from elected officials, first responders, and the general public that expressed concerns towards the proposal. More info will become available once more plans are made and rendering are developed. There isn’t anything they can confirm or deny due to the plans still being reworked and not approved currently.”
In other words, it’s back to the drawing board.
Does that mean there will be another public hearing so the community can see the design and provide input? Rose couldn’t answer that question. “I am unsure. It goes into how drastic the changes are, or if it’s requested by the team or by an official.”
This is a $7 million project and extends all the way back to the alternating light at Buttonwood and Prescott. The state is working on a plan to get better traffic flow to the bridge and heading both north and south once vehicles reach the other side. Originally the project was expected to start in the middle of 2023 and be completed by the end of 2024. Rose did not know how this new bridge issue would impact that timeline.