MARCO ISLAND — The City Council will make the final decision on the Smokehouse Bay Bridge replacement, but city staff is working hard to garner citizen input.
Islanders got another chance to look into the future and help shape it on Monday night, when the city hosted a Smokehouse Bay Bridge Public Conceptual Design Workshop in the vestibule of the community room at the police department. Each of the five groups of engineering and architecture firms retained to develop concepts for the project was on hand to share their visions for the new Smokehouse Bay Bridge.
“It’s like a trade show, an open house format,” said Public Works Director Rony Joel. “Our goal is to get input. We want to make this a community-driven project.”
“The current bridge is at the end of its useful life,” said Joel. Replacing the span is crucial “before catastrophic failure is reached,” which could occur by 2012 or 2013, he said.
At Monday’s meeting, citizens were easily outnumbered by white-shirted representatives of engineering firms. The professionals eagerly descended on the Islanders who did show up, explaining why their concept was the best for the island and the bridge.
The Marco residents looked at the glossy presentations, chatted with the engineers, and eventually filled out ballots expressing their top concerns and choosing a favorite design.
Many of the residents at the meeting were people who live near the bridge or will have to pass underneath to get their boats out to open water.
“This is very important to us,” said Beth Povlow, making the rounds with her husband Irv. “Our view is the bridge, so we’ll have to look at it every day.”
Paul Meyer, who lives on San Marco Road, said, “we’re the farthest you can get from the open Gulf. By the time you get from the house to the bridge, the tide has changed.” Just on esthetics, he said, the TBE Group’s presentation was the winner in his book.
“I like the TY Lin bridge. I like the visual approach, and it should be less expensive,” said Wayne Purvis, whose wife Susan favored the TBE concept. “The city has done a good job getting all the bids.”
“We live on Tigertail, and we go across this bridge every day,” said Susan.
Islander Donna Kay said the most important consideration for her was how the look of the bridges — the project will feature a double span — fit in with existing look of Marco Island.
“I don’t like the two steel structures at all. They’re not in tune with the island. The Esplanade and everything nearby has the Mediterranean look.”
For those who did not get to this open house, or the “In the Round” presentation in June at the Orion Bank branch, an additional workshop will be held at the police department building Aug. 24, said Joel.
In addition, residents can learn more about the Smokehouse Bay Bridge project online by going to the city’s Web site, cityofmarcoisland.com. A link on the city’s home page lets web-surfers see each of the five groups’ presentations, and vote for their favorite. So far the city has received about 300 of the non-binding ballots on paper, and another 100 or so electronically, said Joel.