Safety concerns over the Brooks Bridge have locals and officials asking questions. It is only a matter of time before the Brooks Bridge will be closed due to safety concerns. Local leaders have already heard from FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad. Last May, he told area business leaders that the nearly 50-year-old bridge has to be replaced, or that it will eventually get to the point where it is no longer safe for travel. It has been deemed “structurally deficient” by inspectors. According to inspections, the bridge railings do not meet currently acceptable standards or a safety feature is required and none is provided. The approach guardrail ends do not meet acceptable standards and a safety feature is required and none is provided.
I read this information and cringe thinking of the next car accident that could occur and how this insufficient bridge and lack of safety features will exacerbate an accident and make a minimal car accident into a tragic one.
Nevertheless, we are finally moving to the next step of the process of either replacing the bridge or building an alternate bridge. The Northwest Florida Daily News reports that the FDOT wants to hear from the public about whether or not they need to replace the Brooks Bridge due to safety concerns. The paper reports that we should expect a decision on whether the state will move forward with an alternate bridge by as early as December 2016. The update to the commissioners- provided by Steve Schnell of the engineering firm HDR, – touched on both the alternate crossing study and the Brooks Bridge replacement study. Schnell said the need for the alternate crossing is “much different” from the need to replace Brooks Bridge. “… For this study, what we’re looking at is some way to relieve congestion in the region,” said Schnell, project manager for each study. “That’s the basis as well as looking at an additional hurricane evacuation route.” During the alternate crossing study, engineers will examine current traffic conditions and identify multiple 500-foot corridors that could accommodate the span, he said. ” … The main issue we’re trying to get at is whether it’s needed or necessary.” The goal of the alternate span study is to give FDOT enough information to decide whether it should move into the planning, engineering and design phase, he added. The Brooks Bridge replacement study is expected to take twice as long, wrapping up by the summer of 2018.
The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public kickoff meeting on the replacement of Brooks Bridge at 5:30 p.m. April 23 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center. At the meeting, FDOT officials will take applications from local residents who want to serve on its Stakeholder Advisory Board.