homepage logo

Bridge closure subject of resident-called session

By Staff | May 24, 2008

The controversial bridge closure on Southwest 28th Street, that has divided southwest Cape residents, will be the subject of a Thursday evening informational meeting at the Oasis Middle School cafeteria.

Resident Karie Rathbun put the meeting together even though she does not live in there area. After hearing a friend’s concerns over the closure, Rathbun took point during a council meeting to try and convince Councilmember Bill Deile, who originally brought the bridge issue forward, to set up a meeting. When he informed her that he did not have the time to do so, Rathbun, who ran against Deile in last year’s election, took assembled a litany of city and county experts to show up on Thursday.

“I want to be able to have the citizens have all their answers to all of their questions,” she said. “I just felt that it was my civic duty to step up to the plate and try to help if I could.”

City staff members ranging from police chief Robert Petrovich to Assistant City Manager Carl Schwing, all the way to transportation head Steve Neff will be in attendance, as will a member of the county’s school bus transportation division. Deile also plans to be in attendance to answer whatever questions he can.

In March, council decided to close off the bridge with a temporary barrier after a number residents asked the city to do so, citing safety issues caused by speeding cars and heavy traffic using the roadway as a cut through between Skyline and Chiquita boulevards. They also pointed out that a developer has assembled more parcels of land near Home Depot and the bridge, which could later become another major commercial development generating additional traffic.

The closure became controversial after other residents found out about the closing when signs and the barrier went up. The issue was never brought to public hearing and instead was a late-night administrative discussion item that left little opportunity for others to speak up.

Rathbun is not promising that all sides will leave satisfied on Thursday, but they will come away with more knowledge on the issue, which she acknowledged is dividing the community to some extent.

“If you give everyone the same respect and listen to everyone that presents, you will leave here informed,” she said. “And that is the main intent of the meeting.”

Deile has not heard much on the subject since several residents lobbied against the closure during citizens’ input time at an early April council meeting.

“I assume that people have gotten used to the new traffic pattern and have adjusted their driving habits,” he said.

He pointed out that there are always two sides to any issue no matter how contentious or not, pointing to the seawall assessments as a prime example. On Monday, council halted the seawall program in response to the complaints of a number of residents, but now, according to Deile, construction firms who had contracts to build the seawalls are upset about losing work.

As for her perspective on the closure, Rathbun is remaining neutral.

“The only position I’m taking is that the residents of that area need to be informed,” she said.