Is there a hidden agenda on Marco Island’s Smokehouse Bay Bridge? I’ve done the research, but if I’m proven wrong, I’ll gladly retract my statements. The last time any repairs, other than cosmetic, were done was 2007. We’ve had study after study done on the bridge, and they all indicate Health Index of 98.1, indicating that the deck, superstructure and substructure are all in good condition, with some minor problems (refer to: www.ledgerdata.com/bridges/collier/n-collier-blvd-nbsmokehouse-bay-030209/#nbidetail).
In 2009, we spent over $100,000 for preliminary designs; spent another $2 million the last couple of years for other failed designs. Assigned Tim Pinter to obtain detailed costs for repairs; gave Cardno TBE another $95,000 to create bid package for design-repairs. Next step, needed $150,000 to obtain engineering study to determine repair costs. Pinter also produced his departmental estimates for the repairs, which was tabled without discussion by City Council. We’ve talked about this for at least five years, spent about $3 million, and accomplished nothing. The repairs could have been made for far less, and much sooner, than the time and money we’ve wasted in the process to date. Let’s quit beating Pinter up and put together a reasonable plan.
So, instead of just complaining, I thought it would be good to propose some solutions:
- Request ‘design-build-not to exceed’ bids for repairs to the bridge.
- Request another ‘design-build-not to exceed’ bid for replacement of the bridge.
- As they say, the devil’s in the detail so we must comprehensively include detailed, specific features that are to be included in these bids.
- The received bids must , to be considered, include costs for all the work that needs to be done, including lighting, landscaping, sea walls, etc.
- Eliminate all the fluff and extras that were added in an attempt to get the price upwards of $12 million in hopes of qualifying for so called ‘Tiger grants.’ And any superfluous things that are not necessary. Let’s go for a strictly ‘needs based’ approach.
- Think outside the box. If guard rails are a big concern, they could be replaced without replacing the bridge. If sidewalks are a big concern, side walk spans, independent of replacing the bridge, can be constructed alongside at a greatly reduced price.
- Consider all the impacts of the new bridge. A bridge that is raised higher than the current one will impact speed limits, intersections and businesses, churches, etc. that are in near proximity, due to grading requirements. What are the fill requirements for the increased height? What are the costs of conforming electric, cable, water lines, etc. to the new height of the new bridge? What are the environmental impacts? And all the thousand other considerations of the new bridge.
- Make a fair comparison, and bring the results of such comparison to the taxpayers at referendum.
Replacing the bridge will have a huge impact on our already staggering debt. The costs for this will not only be borne by us, our children, and our grandchildren, but for generations to come.
No matter what the costs are, or how many bids the city receives, we must have bid estimates for both repairing and for replacing the bridge, to make a reasonable comparison. And, if history of the controversy over the bridge is any measure, we will need to make some repairs to the bridge in the interim between now and the time construction of the replacement bridge can commence.
To an extent, I believe in the old adage that ‘if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’
If you agree with the points made in this article, please email the City Council at ‘email@example.com’, and make your voice heard at City Council meetings.