Residents and local officials gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Pensacola Tuesday, for a look at the proposed new bridge over Pensacola Bay.
Representatives from the Jacksonville-based consulting firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills unveiled the most current plan using the so-called west-central corridor to the Project Advisory Group -- 14 members representing local government, business and residents.
Ian Satter with DOT says the new bridge would feature some major changes – both aesthetic and practical -- from what’s now on the 54-year-old span.
“One of the things that we’re looking doing is making those two, three-lane facilities, so a total of six lanes for that bridge with some pedestrian features like sidewalks out there,” said Satter. “The bridge will also be raised in the center there, from about 50 feet to about 65 feet.”
Gulf Breeze City Manager Buz Eddy is among the community leaders there and in Pensacola, who are cautiously optimistic about the job RS&Hhas done so far.
None of the plans for the new Pensacola Bay Bridge will be finalized until after a public hearing set for June 10, also to be at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. But Eddy says whatever’s decided will have an impact on Gulf Breeze.
“Well, you know, it’s a $600 million construction project,” said Eddy. “We have a major impact when there’s a car with a flat tire. You’re going to have cranes and boats and pile driving and new bridge panels being constructed. Progress requires a few broken eggs, and that’s the kind of thing we’re going to have to put up with.”
On the other side of the coin, Eddy concedes that a $600 million, five-year project will certainly benefit the local economy when construction begins in 2017.
Some residents and businesses are concerned over the alignment of the new bridge, on both the Pensacola and Gulf Breeze sides. The west-central corridor now favored by Reynolds, Smith and Hills is to the west of the old bridge’s footprint.
Project Manager Dan Kristoff told the gathering Tuesday that four traffic lanes would remain open at all times, with no obstructions to businesses near each end of the bridge.
More information about the Pensacola Bay Bridge project can be found at Pensacolabaybridge.com.