WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad announced Tuesday a new plan to keep the old Flagler Bridge open while crews construct a new bridge.
"The decision is to keep the existing bridge open. We're going to drive micro-piles around the existing pier and support the existing bridge with those piles," Prasad said.
Basically, he says they will reinforce the foundation. It will cost about five million dollars and delay construction on the new bridge by about six months.
Just a few weeks ago, FDOT engineers said this wasn't a possibility.
People in Palm Beach became angry and voiced their concerns.
"The Governor's main concern is safety. I spoke with the mayor and we began looking at a different approach. The governor's conversation with me was to make sure we're doing the right thing," Prasad said.
Prasad says his engineers were initially alarmed when they found the bridge was sinking. They decided it had to be closed. But since then, a different engineer came up with the new plan which has Palm Beach residents rejoicing.
"It was the best news we could have hoped for. Keeping the bridge open, and even expanding it to four lanes after its been repaired all the way through completion of the new bridge. That's exactly what we hoped was possible," Bob Wright with the Palm Beach Civic Association said.
Prasad says the additional cost and time is worth it in the long run to keep the bridge open.
"This bridge is going to cost 94 million dollars...so five million...it's not something I plan for everyday. We don't always want to do it, but it's the right decision to keep the existing bridge open," Prasad said.
FDOT says they will have to close the bridge some nights after 9pm for construction. They hope to have it back open by 5am.
Their engineers will continue to monitor the bridge twice a day to make sure it is safe.
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