Flagler Memorial Bridge agreement reached

Bridge marked by state as 'structurally' deficient

With all of the water in South Florida, we count on our bridges to get where we're going.

One of the area's largest bridges in our area, Flagler Memorial Bridge, is crumbling and was suppose to be torn down months ago.

In February, the Contact 5 Investigators discovered that Flagler Memorial is one of nine in our area the state marked as "structurally" deficient, meaning it's too old and needs to be torn down.

Construction was supposed to start months ago, but the cranes are sitting next to the bridge, not moving. They  have become a fixture in the downtown skyline.

Monday, the Contact 5 Investigators learned the cranes are going to be there even longer than expected and the project's going to cost $6 million more than expected. 

"That's a lot of money, out of our pocket," Dan Garcia, a local driver said.
 
More than 16,000 people travel over the moving bridge every day. But underneath, you'll find 75 years worth of wear and tear.
 
"Because of the opening, they operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," Barbara Kelleher, a spokesperson with the Florida Department of Transportation said.
 
Drivers want the new bridge done. "It's something that has to be done," Jim Walker, another local driver said.
 
"I'm very happy about the safety issues of having a new bridge," local driver, Jason Guari said. 

In February, the Florida Department of Transportation said construction would begin any day. "We hope to have it under construction in the next month or so," Kelleher told the Contact 5 Investigators back then.
 
But five months later -- nothing. That's because the state's building the new bridge just south of the old one, right next to the Palm Harbor Marina. A marina that said it will lose tens of millions of dollars in business because the structure's too close to their boat slips, on property it shares with the state.
 
"It was an unbelievable surprise and we had no idea that the bridge was moving," Cheryl Chase the Executive Vice President of Leisure Resorts, the company that owns Palm Harbor Marina said. "I think there were just lots of issues but once we found out we tried to act as quickly and as appropriately as possible."
 
The marina says it has finally reached an agreement with the state one that is going to cost taxpayers.

Marina officials tell me the state has agreed to pay $6 million to use the property, so the marina can build new places boats can dock that are located away from the new bridge. The added expense is on top of the bridge's $94 million price tag.
 
"I mean they shoulda had it done the first time the right way and not have to spend the extra money," Dan Garcia, a local driver, said.
 
Not only is it going to cost more money than expected, but it's going to take a long time for construction. A total of 33 months and is not expected to be finished until the summer of 2015.

State officials still don't know when they'll start building the bridge because they are waiting for environmental permits to be approved. They're hoping they'll get approved by the end of this month.

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