MARCO ISLAND — Florida Highway Administration officials locked in the final answer on whether Marco’s Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge would get federal stimulus dollars. On the heels of Collier County Commissioners approval to repair the Goodland Bridge, the Jolley Bridge’s new span received its final approval.
Marco’s bridge projects, the Goodland repair and maintenance project, and construction of a new span along-side the current Jolley Bridge, were approved by different governing bodies Tuesday, April 28.
County Commissioners awarded a $542,998 construction contract to Engineer Controls Systems for repairs to the Goodland.
The same day, the Federal Highway Administration approved spending $28 million to expand the Jolley Bridge.
City Councilors are enthusiastic about what the new and improved entries to the Island will do for Island businesses, tourism and safety.
The go-ahead on the Jolley Bridge is the final hurdle, which followed behind the Joint Legislative Budget Commission’s stamp of approval in mid-April.
Many people may have believed it was already a done deal after receiving county, MPO and commission approval, but Trotter said he didn’t feel secure until the process was complete.
“Having been involved in the political process for five years, you never know anything is certain until it’s finalized, especially in these economic times.”
Trotter pioneered on many levels and for many years for the bridge to be reconstructed and Mike Minozzi, a former City Councilor and former MPO member, had done the same.
Trotter had recommended scaling the project down from an initial two span, four lane project with removal of the current bridge to a one span, two-lane project while keeping and maintaining the original bridge. This recommendation helped push the process along, said Debbie Tower, FDOT’s public information director for Southwest Florida.
The new span is expected to become the southbound bridge for traffic headed on-Island. The original bridge, built in 1969, will be for northbound traffic headed to the mainland.
The project cost went down with the scope from about $60 million to about $28 million. Due to the financial constraints faced by the state, tolls were to be the only way to pay for the construction and maintenance without stimulus dollars, Tower said.
If bids for the bridge come in low enough, a new fishing pier will replace the dilapidated fishing pier. The state will continue to maintain both spans and the city will maintain the pier and landscaping.
The current bridge has about a 15 to 20-year life expectancy with the routine maintenance performed by FDOT, Tower said. The existing bridge has a level 3 hurricane rating and the new span will have a level 5 hurricane rating, Trotter reported.
Earlier this year, an accident on the bridge occurred nearly simultaneously with on-Island emergencies, creating a gridlock and delaying emergency responders, Fire Chief Mike Murphy had reported in mid-February. Trotter said the new span will limit such health and safety risks.
The project is going out for design bids this summer. Trotter said construction will likely begin before the end of the year and may take up to three years to complete.
The Jolley Bridge project will generate about 800 jobs for Florida residents, Tower has said. Workers will be going to local businesses and may need a local place to stay, Trotter pointed out.
While the project is considered shovel-ready, design was originally done for two spans, and will need to be modified to the current one span plan.
The new span will look slightly different than the existing bridge because there are new building standards, Tower said. The new span will include sidewalks and shoulders.
“I think this is great. I think it shows that the state, county and MPO, well, how much they value Marco Island,” Trotter said.
The Jolley Bridge on SR-951 spans the Marco River. Of the two access points to Marco Island, it carries most of the demand between Marco and the mainland. FDOT reports that the Goodland Bridge carries less than 10 percent of the trips to and from Marco, as it adds distance, time, and cost to trips compared to the Jolley Bridge.
Avoiding tolls on the Jolley Bridge will help commuters and year-round residents, whose cost of living may have increased along with associated costs for goods and services provided to the Island, Trotter said.
Collier County Transportation Administrator Norman Feder said in July 2008 that the conditions of the Goodland Bridge had been incorrectly evaluated by the state as “functionally obsolete” based on a 2007 study. He said it was in excellent condition. Since that time, the Goodland Bridge was identified by FDOT as critical and as needing structural repairs, despite the rating improvement.
The Goodland Bridge project is expected to begin in July and be complete in the fall, reported Collier County Project Manager Marlene Messam. Replacement of the concrete barrier traffic railing, repairing of cracks, installing guardrail transitions at all four corners of the bridge, joint repairs, replacement of markers, repairing navigational lights and a scour evaluation, or assessment of erosion, are included in the project.
The repairs are part of routine maintenance on county bridges and will also include an assessment by contractors on the extent of erosion on the bridge that may lead to future repairs.
Messam said a new rating analysis would need to be performed to determine what rating increase would be yielded by the work, but such analysis is not deemed necessary or expected at this time.
Funding for the Goodland Bridge project comes from gas taxes paid at the pump and redistributed by the state.
Councilman Chuck Kiester said he hoped construction of both bridge projects would be coordinated to avoid the only two possible hurricane evacuation routes being partially closed at the same time.
Neither bridge is expected to close, county and state transportation officials confirmed. There may be intermittent lane closures on the Goodland Bridge, but not during peak travel times, county transportation spokeswoman Connie Deane said.
Lane shifts won’t be anticipated on the Jolley Bridge until making the connections at each end of the spans, which is anticipated toward the end of the construction, long after the Goodland Bridge improvements are to be complete, Tower said.