BY TOM VAUGHT | SUN STAFF WRITER
CORTEZ – While the seabirds glide over the roadway of the 56-year-old Cortez Bridge, engineers at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) are studying whether to rebuild the venerable structure or replace it.
FDOT released an informational update recently on the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study the state is conducting. As that study continues, FDOT engineers are identifying the number and types of repairs and the cost of rehabilitating the bridge. They will soon begin evaluating the condition of the bridge deck, pilings, railings, piers and mechanical elements and how much corrosion has occurred. They are also trying to determine the repairs needed to avoid having to post a vehicle weight limit on the bridge.
Engineers are developing bridge replacement alternatives, including the cost and impact on the surrounding communities. They are looking at bridge heights and the alignment of the bridge as it lands on both sides. They are also collecting information about the environment surrounding the bridge. Divers have been in the water surveying sea grasses within project limits.
FDOT has released results of surveys turned in by the public prior to the initial public meeting this past spring. Nearly 850 replies were received. Fifty-one percent of the respondents favor rehabilitation of the bridge and 43 percent favor replacement. Of those wanting replacement, 38 percent favor a high, fixed-span bridge; 19 percent want a mid-level drawbridge; 33 percent prefer a low-level drawbridge; and four percent favor another option.
FDOT officials will hold a public workshop early next year to present bridge replacement alternatives, the rehabilitation alternative and the no-build option. Officials will conduct a formal public hearing next summer to present a recommended alternative and the no-build alternative.
FDOT will determine the recommended alternative with input from local elected officials, residents, users and other agencies. The Federal Highway Administration will need to approve the decision.
For more information, call Tony Sherrard, of FDOT, at 863-519-2304