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Lee County to host meeting on Big Carlos Bridge project
January 10, 2018

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Lee County is in the midst of deciding whether to repair or replace the Big Carlos Pass bridge.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, county staff will have a public workshop from 5 to 7 p.m. at Bay Oaks Rec Center to review the options for the infrastructure project.

Public input is a part of the project development and environment study (PD&E).

"We want public input," said Kris Cella of Cella Molnar, a consultant for the project.

The bridge is 52 years old and is in need of replacement, according to the county staff, because bridges of its age were built in a time before civil engineering could calculate for a natural phenomenon called scour. Bridge scour is the removal of the sediments around the bridge pilings, which compromises the foundation of the bridge.

Lee County has three options on the table. First, it's a total rehabilitation of the current bridge, called the no-build option. Rehabilitation would keep the bridge at its current height level of 24.5 feet clearance, but a renovation would only last about 20 years, and then the county would have to build a new bridge, Cella said.

A rehab would cost approximately $40.2 million.

The other two alternatives are a new drawbridge of the same height and a 60-foot clearance bridge. For comparison, Matanzas Pass Bridge has a clearance of 65 feet.

A new drawbridge would tally approximately between $167.6 and $167.4 million; The 60-foot option would cost $87.8 million. Both would last 75 years and come with a 10-foot multi-use path on one side, a 6-foot sidewalk on the other and bike lanes on the road, Cella said.

If one of the alternatives are ultimately chosen, the county will build the new bridge alongside the old bridge, meaning its final location would be shifted slightly north or south.

At the public meeting, residents will get the opportunity to see two to-scale models of the new drawbridge option and the 60-foot option - in a previous Observer story, County Commissioner Larry Kiker said people would be able to "see your house" in it. Residents will get the chance to see how or if the bridge will impact them at scale.

"We're excited about these, and it will be helpful to the public," Cella said.

The meeting is an open-house style. The public can come in at any time between 5 and 7 p.m. to watch a slideshow, examine the models, and ask questions.

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