Flagler Bridge closing for 6 months, Florida Department of Transportation says

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The Flagler Memorial Bridge will be closed for six months beginning in May.

During that time work will take place on the pillars and the foundation of a new bridge, according to Tish Burgher the public information officer with the Flagler Memorial Replacement Bridge Project.

"This is necessary and really the most effective way to maintain the existing bridge, while building the new bridge," Burgher said.

Last year engineers discovered the existing bridge had settled more than two inches over the previous year.

Currently there are no mechanical or settlement issues with the old bridge. However, when contractors start to work on new piers, there could be some impact. As a precaution the current bridge will be off limits.

Tammy Grimason, manager at Nick and Johnnies, says it's unfortunate. "We're lucky it's happening during the summer when it is a little bit slower, we definitely slowed down before when it happened, it'll slow down again."

Stephanie Bojokles of Tropical Fruit shop, says it's not worth staying open when the bridge is closed.

"Costing the businesses on this street, not just this street, but the whole towns in gridlock when this happens which means if someone lives in the north end of town, how they gonna get them to the hospital?"

"They need to know that the town, the city, the county and the department are working very hard to minimize impacts," Burgher said.

The new $94.2 million replacement bridge is scheduled to be completed in late 2015 or early 2016.

In November 2012, the aging bridge was closed for emergency repairs after its locks were knocked out of alignment during the construction of the replacement bridge.

Last fall the bridge was shut down for 10 days after construction crews found a problem with the spans.

More than 16,000 cars cross the bridge daily between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.

The bridge will close May 12 and reopen November 1.

Story updated to reflect closing will begin May 12th.

The wptv.com web team contributed to this report.