Matlacha Drawbridge replacement still on hold
Discussion regarding replacement of the aging Matlacha Drawbridge began back in 2006, yet construction of the new bridge has yet to commence. According to a previous report, the replacement project was to have possibly been under way in May.
However, according to project coordinator Don DeBerry, the start date was contingent upon available funds and construction is not expected to take place until funds become available.
“At this point we have gotten all of the permits and the construction plans are at the 90 percent stage. By the end of the year everything will be in place, but it could be as much as five years before we have the funding to move ahead with this project,” he said.
The original proposal for the new bridge called for a wider bridge equipped with breakdown lanes. According to E.C. Driver and Associates, the design on the current bridge is antiquated as it does not have any shoulders to accommodate for vehicular breakdowns while allowing the two lanes of traffic to continue to flow at a normal pace.
In addition to breakdown lanes, the new bridge design first proposed included sidewalks on the north and south sides, a fishing pier, a vendor space with public restrooms and parking for several vehicles.
According to DeBerry, some of those plans have changed.
“Because of public objections, the fishing pier has been removed from the plan and as for a vending area, as of yet there will not be one,” said DeBerry.
“At the public input meetings this too was objected to, however, in order to provide public restroom facilities, which will become the responsibility of parks and recreation. As a rule, when parks and rec are responsible for public facilities, they often will offer vendor space with the agreement that the vendor maintain the bathrooms to help defray costs of maintenance,” he said.
The bridge will be constructed along the south side of the existing bridge and when first presented, area residents and business owners were concerned about the impact it would have on Matlacha’s limited parking options.
“The county has already purchased the property where the old Snook Restaurant is and as for the property to the east of the new bridge, the parking at the Bridge Water Inn will need to be reconfigured,” DeBerry said.
When the new bridge is completed and operational, the old bridge will be demolished and removed.
While county staff had conducted a previous study of the bridge, it was decided that construction of a new bridge was more cost effective than having to continually repair the old bridge, even though the study also showed that the bridge could continue to provide safe service for another 15 years or more.