Bridge repairs could mean lengthy detour for Picciola Island residents

By Sarah Wood
Published June 16, 2004 in The Daily Commercial

About 100 people crowded into the Fruitland Park Casino on Tuesday to voice their concerns, questions and opinions about a project that may close down the Picciola Road bridge for several months.

Representatives from the Lake County Commission and engineering consultants HNTB Orlando sponsored the public information meeting in order to discuss reconstruction of the Picciola Bridge, which spans the Dead River near the Lake Griffin intersection.

The bridge “has reached the end of its design life," Lake County Director of Engineering Fred Schneider said about the 50-year-old structure.

HNTB project manager Michael Leo also agrees that the bridge needs to be replaced, stating that the bridge has "a significant crash history" and on a scale from zero -- the worst -- to 100, the bridge ranks at 50.

“If this was high school, that would be an F,” Leo said.

Disagreement arose over the two proposals of how to replace the bridge.

One plan would close the entire bridge for about seven months. Traffic to U.S. Highway 27 would be detoured via Lake Unity Road (County Road 466B) and Eagle’s Nest Road. This alternative would cost about $750,000, and have no impact on wetland areas.

Many residents opposed the idea of a detour because it would add to their driving time and increase traffic on surrounding roads. Also, many small businesses dependent on passing traffic could suffer from the bridge closing, some said.

The second plan keeps the bridge partially open to traffic during the construction, but would take several months longer. Under this proposal, HNTB expects a project time of about 12 to 14 months. This alternative would cost about $1.25 million and have a slight impact on surrounding wetlands.

The county and HNTB are currently examining both of these proposals in a preliminary engineering study.

”Neither option has been decided on,” snider said, but HTNB’s analysis lists the first proposal, to close the entire bridge, as the preferred alternative.

Which method is ultimately chosen will not be decided on numbers alone, Leo said. Both HNTB and the county will hold a number of meetings like Tuesday’s in order to “listen to the public.”

The bridge also serves as a recreational site for many anglers and boaters. Many boaters brought their concerns to the meeting. After completion, the bridge should be two feet higher, which would allow greater boat traffic.

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