Letter to the Editor: My position on the Smokehouse Bay Bridge

In three recent City Council meetings, I’ve made presentations to my colleagues and to the public on the situation surrounding the Smokehouse Bay Bridge.

This critical bridge, which serves as an important evacuation conduit in case of emergency, handles up to 25,000 vehicles per day in season. Sadly, the bridge is classified as “functionally obsolete,” which means that it does not meet current design standards: The road lanes and sidewalks aren’t wide enough, and the guardrails are the wrong material, among other issues. Worse, of course, those of us who go over and under the bridge (particularly on our bicycles and in our boats) know that the structure is approaching the end of its life. Portions of the roadway are crumbling at the surface, the seawalls aren’t robust enough for a big storm surge, and signs of deterioration are even more evident from underneath, and from independent inspection by an engineer hired by the city.

We are told that the costs of repair are very high and of course won’t give us too many more years of service. It is in this context that City Council decided, by a 5-2 vote, to put out to bid a project to rebuild the bridge. This project could cost in the range of $9 million. Bids will be reviewed at the June 15 City Council meeting.

I was one of the two who voted not to proceed at this point, and I’d like to explain why. Clearly the bridge needs to be replaced. The issue I’ve raised with my colleagues is whether we’ve sufficiently exhausted the possibilities for financial aid to Marco Island to rebuild the bridge, and I do not believe we have done enough. I’ve tried to interest the council in discussing who can help us pay for the bridge. But in the last City Council meeting, it became clear that few of my colleagues believes we can get help. I think this belief is misplaced, and I’ll continue to urge us to take a more aggressive posture with the county and federal government. I agree that the odds are not great – this idea might not work, and we’ll be right where we are now, with Marco Island paying 100 percent of the cost – but we should try. We have not tried for quite some time.

The city applied for so-called Tiger grants several years ago, but we were turned down. Tiger grants require that the bridge in question be multimodal (which ours is not), multifunctional (which ours is not), have a rebuild cost in excess of $12 million (which ours should not – we added bells and whistles so that it would qualify for consideration) and be “infrastructure critical” (maybe).

Next down the line are large federal grants, but these are reserved in the case of bridge rebuilding for bridges classified as “structurally deficient,” and our bridge is not judged structurally deficient.

Finally, we could be eligible for funding directed by our Federal Department of Transportation District (we are in Florida District 1), when our bridge falls below a Health Rating of 80 (it was rated 80.32 in January) so that it hits the Federal computer models making it a possible candidate. Eligibility also requires that our Municipal Planning Organization (MPO) endorse the project. The MPO is a political body, and my colleagues feel that the MPO will not be supportive. I believe that such a posture amounts to negotiating with ourselves, sometimes called giving up early. I realize we were just helped with the Jolley Bridge, thanks to the herculean efforts of former Councilor Mike Minozzi and the congruence of the first tranche of TARP funding. Those conditions aren’t present today, but the recent collapse of the Skagit River Bridge in Washington two weeks ago has prompted calls from the NTSB for more infrastructure spending. It could happen. For example, shortly after the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007, almost $1 billion in Federal funds was made available for bridge repair and reconstruction.

My recommendation to try hard for some level of outside funding is of course influenced as well by the extraordinary level of debt on Marco Island. Fortunately, we’re a robust community with a history of very conservative fiscal management, but that doesn’t change the fact that Marco Island has the highest level of debt per capita in the state of Florida, when we include the Water/Sewer Utility. We should be more ambitious and grabby when it comes to our share of transportation dollars. We should get tough, marshal our political friends, argue for our share of transportation-related spending in Collier County, and not give up the fight when we haven’t even put gloves on. The bridge is not unsafe. No government agency has said that the bridge is unsafe. No engineering firm has said that the bridge is unsafe. We can wait a year or two or even more before taking on this currently unnecessary project.

Larry Honig | Marco Island

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 39

marco97 writes:

"we’re a robust community with a history of very conservative fiscal management" You have to be kidding me, I have never seen a City with so many new vehicles as we have here on Marco. In the last few months I have noticed that every vehicle the City owns is new and that includes all the equipment to maintain the parks. Then we have the new rescue boat for $400,000 and the public's works Dept. just bought a new boat a couple months ago for $35,000. I grew up in a affluent community and the public works Dept. did not get new vehicles every two years, they worked them until they needed to be replaced and I don't see that happening here on Marco.

captnjimbo writes:

I think Honig is correct...no reason for urgency if financing will improve for us in a few years. Remember the 12 million work of art proposed a few years ago...way over designed. Remember the Winterberry bridge replaced about 4 years ago...one of the contractors told me they tore down a perfectly good bridge to build a prettier one, a few inches more clearance.

Our debt is a result of a spending binge when prices and taxes were sky high and it looked like the prosperity would never end...true, Marco has a better infrastructure, but it is too early to tell if we will ever return to that and Honig's conservative approach should be considered. Not looking for a fight...just stating an opinion...and Eagle...thanks for the spell check feature.

LadueVGilleo writes:

Not looking for a fight, but for the sake of accuracy the Winterberry Bridge was selected for replacement in 2005. After hurricane Wilma, the Florida Department of Transportation determined the bridge was structurally deficient, and closed the bridge to commercial traffic. The Coast Guard held up the permitting process after that, and the new span didn't open up until 2008.

To me, this doesn't sound like a perfectly good bridge was torn down to be replaced by a prettier one.

I do believe Mr. Honig is correct in his approach to replacing the bridge. Analyze all possibilities and come up with the best solution.

26yearsonmarco writes:

From what I understand, the “the 12 million work of art proposed a few years ago” is still on the table, and will be built.

If this is true, and our new Council is powerless to do exactly what Mr. Honig is suggesting, and we blow 12 million, then the entire re-election process was a waste of time.

Regardless of the present condition of the Smokehouse Bridge, two approaches need to be studied: 1. Bids taken for repairs, and, 2. Replacement using a Standard Bridge Design, not a “Work of Art”.

Then the “Funding Part” can be planned based on real numbers, and not some dream project.

If some people want the “Artsy Crafty” look, maybe the new bridge can be painted to match the Art Building on Winterberry.

soundman writes:

The previous writters are correct. Mr Honig is spot on in suggesting less expensive alternative and seeking state or federal assistance when the bridge needs to be replaced. and then go with plain vanilla tructure. the other newbies on council seem more motivated to get citizen referendum approval for the stripped down new Mackle Park building through utility bill question that will exclude master metered condos.
the feeling by some councilors that major business should not take place when the snowbirds are gone is faulty. the newspapers may be read online and citizen input then directed to councilors.

WMissow writes:

My goodness.....Does this mean that we will not have one of the councilor's name plastered on the new bridge?

Taking a conservative approach that is approved by the people on Marco is the right thing to do.

I know according to a couple of bloggers on this site still think that the funds for the Judge Jolly Bridge came out of Obama's pockets as they posted when the bridge was being built.

Maybe they should write a letter to him requesting the funds needed. Oh, I forgot those funds were spent on IRS conferences :-O!

ajm3s writes:

Mr. Honig presents an argument that is compelling. I would like to state, I thought the seawall below the bridge was of concern as well, which is also driving the need to replace the bridge.

In any event, Mr. Honig provided an excellent proposal and shows a level of detail that I appreciate. And applaud his drive to work within the "infrastructure" of government funding, for what I would consider a county road....but due to Marco Island incessant "need" to control, the past city decision to accept a liability that is offset by a $1MM/yr payment for 15 years from the county for maintenance. I do not think I would have accepted that offer from the county. But that is water under the bridge.........

gladesgator writes:

Pardon me but I thought Marco Island was inhabited by conservatives who do not like to see the federal government deep in debt and do not like to run to big government to pay for local concerns.

It seems to me that if the folks on Marco Island can snap up million dollar condos as second homes with little thought they can pay for their own bridge. That bridge also services all the commercial hotels and condos along the beach. Are we suggesting that the federal government should be spending money on projects like this across the board or just in our own back yard?

There may be reasons to put off construction but should tapping government funds to remedy local problems be one of them?

WMissow writes:

Federal funds??????? How much do we pay in Federal taxes from this island?

I think OUR tax dollars would be better spent on our bridge than for 4 million dollar IRS conventions or Obama phones.

26yearsonmarco writes:

Maybe we could stick to the Lavish Bridge Design, and ask the IRS to give us back some of our stolen money, since they are big on Lavish Spending:

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/...

ajm3s writes:

in response to marco97:

"we’re a robust community with a history of very conservative fiscal management" You have to be kidding me, I have never seen a City with so many new vehicles as we have here on Marco. In the last few months I have noticed that every vehicle the City owns is new and that includes all the equipment to maintain the parks. Then we have the new rescue boat for $400,000 and the public's works Dept. just bought a new boat a couple months ago for $35,000. I grew up in a affluent community and the public works Dept. did not get new vehicles every two years, they worked them until they needed to be replaced and I don't see that happening here on Marco.

Agreed! The spending on this island in specific areas could undergo more scrutiny, and the examples you cite as evidence are apropos. And in keeping with the theme of seeking county/federal funds for local needs, I have raised the issue of Marco Island not needing a $400K fire rescue boat, when a county rescue boat lies across the river in Isles of Capri.

For the most part that is why I support Mr. Honig attempt to seek funds set aside by the Federal government for bridge work and distributed based on specific metrics.

However, I do not believe Marco Island has a history of conservative fiscal management. I believe Marco Island's fiscal management is based on accentuating rising market valuations to increase tax revenue against those property owners who cannot vote due to a host of reasons.

marcofriend writes:

Let's not forget that the $12 million design was to attempt to get federal funding and had to be over $11 million to even apply for the grant. That being said, they included a pier for the Hittler Park, and walkway under the bridge to Veterans Park and a walkway from Hittler Park to the Lutheran Church and a number of extras that are definitely not needed without grant funding.
The problems that are faced:
1. What would have happened if TS Andrea would have direct hit us and knocked down one or both seawalls which support the bridge?
2. Do we just forget about the nearly $2 million already spent for design and permits which expire in July?

I don't want to see us spend any more money at this time either, but the bridge is an important evacuation route off of the island in case of emergency. Do we can second guess mother nature and have a bridge similar to the Marquam Bridge that fell in Oregon do to a bump by a tractor trailer or the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis in 2007?

In 2 years if the economy comes back at all, will contractors be this hungry and hold their pricing to today's level?

Hopefully many people speak up at the City Council meetings or at least email City Council to give them their perspective on this issue.

26yearsonmarco writes:

In response to "The problems that are faced":

1. The seawall is not a structural component of the bridge.

2. The money that was spent was wasted, and adding insult to injury will not help.

26yearsonmarco writes:

Councilman Honig,

Could you find out how much the Winterberry and S Barfield cost per lineal foot so a comparison can be made to the estimated $11M cost for the Smokehouse Bridge????

If so, please post the numbers here for "We the People" to see.

captnjimbo writes:

What a healthy discussion...informative, polite.

Nice.

ajm3s writes:

in response to marcofriend:

Let's not forget that the $12 million design was to attempt to get federal funding and had to be over $11 million to even apply for the grant. That being said, they included a pier for the Hittler Park, and walkway under the bridge to Veterans Park and a walkway from Hittler Park to the Lutheran Church and a number of extras that are definitely not needed without grant funding.
The problems that are faced:
1. What would have happened if TS Andrea would have direct hit us and knocked down one or both seawalls which support the bridge?
2. Do we just forget about the nearly $2 million already spent for design and permits which expire in July?

I don't want to see us spend any more money at this time either, but the bridge is an important evacuation route off of the island in case of emergency. Do we can second guess mother nature and have a bridge similar to the Marquam Bridge that fell in Oregon do to a bump by a tractor trailer or the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis in 2007?

In 2 years if the economy comes back at all, will contractors be this hungry and hold their pricing to today's level?

Hopefully many people speak up at the City Council meetings or at least email City Council to give them their perspective on this issue.

Excellent points which highlights the approach Marco Island has taken in many capital projects. The MI approach is to present the most wide reaching, extensive proposal rather than focusing and addressing the direct issues need to be corrected.

Your point of providing, modifying or expanding a design to meet grant or other funding sources is not prudent design or project management. It is simply grabbing as much candy is in the candy jar to yield excess spending to meet the conventions of a matching grant, etc.

I always recommend an approach of clearly listing all deficiencies with clear prioritization and cost associated with each deficiency. Then map out a timeline based on this organized TO DO list, or MAY DO list.

Most capital expenditures are expansionary and the protocol I see is ask for the most and see what the city can sell to the community and work backwards. This in my opinion wastes time and energy. Case in point: the Mackle Park Community Center expansion.

To conclude: your points are valid from my perspective, and clearly address priorities. I only wish Mr. Honig's presentation was done by the previous council. In this regard the new council is more robust, as evidenced by Mr. Honig's proposal; it has merit, but it may be late to the game if the bridge is truly in a state of decay. My opinion is focused more on the seawall and supporting structure to bring this project to a close.

WMissow writes:

in response to captnjimbo:

What a healthy discussion...informative, polite.

Nice.

Thank you!

26yearsonmarco writes:

When “We the People” elect people to office, regardless if it’s a Condo Assoc., City, County, State or Federal office, we expect them to what is best for us, and our hard earned money.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the opposite happens, and we blame them, instead of looking in the mirror to see who is really at fault.

Not to make this a political statement, but the election and re-election of Obama is a perfect example, and it will require many years to correct the wrongs he is imposing on this Once Great Nation.

Our newly elected Council is faced the problem of correcting poor decisions made by previous Councils, and “We the People” need to support them.

WizeOlMarco writes:

"Not to make this a political statement, but the election and re-election of Obama is a perfect example, and it will require many years to correct the wrongs he is imposing on this Once Great Nation."

Political statement.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to WizeOlMarco:

"Not to make this a political statement, but the election and re-election of Obama is a perfect example, and it will require many years to correct the wrongs he is imposing on this Once Great Nation."

Political statement.

Can you think of a better example???

If so, lets hear it.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don't you think Twenty (20) Inches is a little on the low side for a Bridge???????

marcofriend writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

Don't you think Twenty (20) Inches is a little on the low side for a Bridge???????

According to City Website maximum clearance is 9.72Ft and minimum clearance is 9.05 Ft. New design is supposed to be approximately 13 Ft.

WizeOlMarco writes:

"in response to WizeOlMarco:

"Not to make this a political statement, but the election and re-election of Obama is a perfect example, and it will require many years to correct the wrongs he is imposing on this Once Great Nation."

Political statement.

Can you think of a better example???

If so, lets hear it."

President Bush policy to deregulate and not enforce laws of the financial industry.

LadueVGilleo writes:

in response to WizeOlMarco:

"in response to WizeOlMarco:

"Not to make this a political statement, but the election and re-election of Obama is a perfect example, and it will require many years to correct the wrongs he is imposing on this Once Great Nation."

Political statement.

Can you think of a better example???

If so, lets hear it."

President Bush policy to deregulate and not enforce laws of the financial industry.

I'm not trying to start a fight, but what is the source of your information?

This is one source of my information:

http://www.cato.org/publications/comm...

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to LadueVGilleo:

I'm not trying to start a fight, but what is the source of your information?

This is one source of my information:

http://www.cato.org/publications/comm...

Thank you for bringing this intelligent article to this Blog.

It is the "Truth and Nothing but the Truth" about how this Once Great Country went down hill.

The falsely inflated real estate prices during the 2002 to 2008 period were, and still are, a major problem. The inflated prices reflected on the taxable values of all homes, and allowed our government to increase their budgets, which need to be re-adjusted back to reality.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Klaus,

First of all, the lots in the section of Marco affected by the Smokehouse Bridge are not wide enough to accommodate large boats.

Second, the higher the bridge becomes, the longer it must be to meet slope requirements mandated by the ADA, and other government agencies.

WizeOlMarco writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

Thank you for bringing this intelligent article to this Blog.

It is the "Truth and Nothing but the Truth" about how this Once Great Country went down hill.

The falsely inflated real estate prices during the 2002 to 2008 period were, and still are, a major problem. The inflated prices reflected on the taxable values of all homes, and allowed our government to increase their budgets, which need to be re-adjusted back to reality.

Native Americans can tell you "how this Once Great Country went down hill".

All nations evolve, population dictates that will happen. Just like the worn out Smokehouse Bay bridge, well designed and useful when built, now too small and lacking sufficient clearance and sidewalks, based on the increased Marco Island population. I do wonder about the $11 million supposed cost, seems high based on what exists however may be accurate for a larger scale, higher bridge. Does the state have a role in this bridge project?; 951 Collier Blvd is a state highway.

captnjimbo writes:

I think 951 used to be a State highway but most signs now say "county 951" I think.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to captnjimbo:

I think 951 used to be a State highway but most signs now say "county 951" I think.

And I think County 951 became our problem when we became a City.

26yearsonmarco writes:

I'm still waiting for Councilman Honig to respond to my request to post costs per lineal foot for new comparable bridges on the Island, so "We the People" can see the difference, if any, to the proposed cost for the Smokehouse Bridge.

LadueVGilleo writes:

in response to GorchFock:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

gladesgator writes:

in response to 26yearsonmarco:

I'm still waiting for Councilman Honig to respond to my request to post costs per lineal foot for new comparable bridges on the Island, so "We the People" can see the difference, if any, to the proposed cost for the Smokehouse Bridge.

Why Honig and not the whole commission?

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to gladesgator:

Why Honig and not the whole commission?

Because Honig is the author of this letter.

I don't care who releases the information as long as "We the People" get to see it.

LEHonig writes:

26yearsonmarco asked earlier for some figures on Smokehouse and some other bridges. I appreciate the help from city staff. I will try to use apples-to-apples figures and explain important differences. It's very difficult to compare the bridges.

Smokehouse Bay Bridges. Remember, it's really two bridges, one northbound, one southbound. Taken together, it's a 114 ft. span (228 feet in total), 104 ft. wide including 8 ft. sidewalks. To date, approximately $2 million has been spent on engineering and design. Only about $50,000 has been spent on permits, and most of these do not expire soon. We do not yet have contractors' bids (due in time to discuss at the July 15 City Council meeting). The engineering estimate is $7.3 million for constructing the bridge and roadway approaches, so $9.3 million in total, or $41,000 per foot. Utility work is separate (and presumably paid for by the utility, and I do not know that number).

East Winterberry Bridge. 120 ft. span, 65 ft. wide. Cost $4.965 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $41,000 per foot.

Jolley Bridge. 1,600 ft. span, 59 ft. wide and 55 ft. tall at highest point. Sidewalk only on one side. Cost $25.822 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $16,000 per foot.

marcofriend writes:

in response to LEHonig:

26yearsonmarco asked earlier for some figures on Smokehouse and some other bridges. I appreciate the help from city staff. I will try to use apples-to-apples figures and explain important differences. It's very difficult to compare the bridges.

Smokehouse Bay Bridges. Remember, it's really two bridges, one northbound, one southbound. Taken together, it's a 114 ft. span (228 feet in total), 104 ft. wide including 8 ft. sidewalks. To date, approximately $2 million has been spent on engineering and design. Only about $50,000 has been spent on permits, and most of these do not expire soon. We do not yet have contractors' bids (due in time to discuss at the July 15 City Council meeting). The engineering estimate is $7.3 million for constructing the bridge and roadway approaches, so $9.3 million in total, or $41,000 per foot. Utility work is separate (and presumably paid for by the utility, and I do not know that number).

East Winterberry Bridge. 120 ft. span, 65 ft. wide. Cost $4.965 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $41,000 per foot.

Jolley Bridge. 1,600 ft. span, 59 ft. wide and 55 ft. tall at highest point. Sidewalk only on one side. Cost $25.822 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $16,000 per foot.

Sorry, but you can not possibly compare the Smokehouse Bay Bridges to the Jolley Bridge. There is nothing comparable in their design other than they both go over water.

Back on October 19, 2009 at the City Council meeting when the T.Y. Lin Bridge was chosen, the pricing varied from $7.5 million for T.Y. Lin to $10.6 million for the Locknor 137 ft design. The lowest price for the bids was with the T.Y. Lin. This included Bridge/Roadway and Underground Utilities. Visit the City Website and view for yourselves.

http://www.cityofmarcoisland.com/modu...

LEHonig writes:

Hello marcofriend, I wasn't comparing the bridges. I was responding to a request from a similarly anonymous writer asking for some figures. I provided them. Comparisons are up to you.

26yearsonmarco writes:

Thank you Commissioner Honig and Marcofriend for the information.

Based on what I see, the T.Y. Lin design provides the highest bridge at the lowest cost, and should be used as a basis for the bidding process. I also wonder how much the elimination of the Arch would do to reduce the cost, unless it’s a structural component.

I assume the Contractor for the Jolly Bridge will bid on Smokehouse.

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to Hascle:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It's a good question, but it's above my pay grade.

LEHonig writes:

Hascle asked why we can't build the Smokehouse Bay bridges for an amount per foot closer to the cost per foot of the Jolley Bridge. There are many reasons, and probably some I don't know. Here's a partial list:

1. The Jolley Bridge was "design-build," a construction approach in which one entity takes the project from design to completion. It's often cheaper than the way Smokehouse is being done ("design-bid-build"), a construction approach in which the payer (that's us on Marco, for Smokehouse) wants to control the design and all its elements. So we did all the design (and paid for it), and now a contractor will have to bid on building to that spec. (Recall that Smokehouse's design was put to the citizens to vote, and the citizens did not choose a bare-bones design.)

2. The Jolley Bridge didn't have to be done in a big hurry. We already had a bridge, and the traffic disruption was minimal. Smokehouse will be a whole different animal. Essentially it will be the construction of one bridge at a time, with traffic diverted to one lane on each bridge as the other bridge is constructed.

3. For the Jolley Bridge, we didn't have to rebuild seawalls and construct elaborate pedestrian pathways and so forth.

4. Big projects and little projects alike have to be prepped and staged and the contractor has to amass the equipment and materials and labor and plan each day and each step. If those costs can be spread out over a lot of work (in this case, a long span for the Jolley Bridge), then the per-foot cost can be reduced.

5. The economy probably played a role. Maybe when Jolley was put to bid, builders were hungry.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features