DUNEDIN – Citizens spoke out at an informal workshop March 29 on plans to replace the two Dunedin Causeway bridges.
Detailed information on three bridge alternatives currently under consideration (a low-level movable bridge, mid-level movable bridge and high-level fixed bridge) was presented at the Hale Activity Center along with the layout, conceptual design and possible impacts on the environment and the community.
“The purpose of this workshop is to help people learn how the study works, what the process is all about and to understand the alternatives we’re looking at to replace these bridges,” said Pinellas County Project Manager Nancy McKibben.
The reason behind replacing the causeway bridges, which were built in 1963, is that they are rapidly nearing the end of their time. In addition, they are functionally obsolete and cannot adequately accommodate pedestrians or bicyclists.
All three of the bridge alternatives will be kept on similar alignments to the original bridges, team members said.
“What we are doing is looking at increasing the functional capacity of the bridges, not adding capacity vehicular-wise,” McKibben said. “What we are going to do is increase public safety, and in the meantime, our mission is to minimize or avoid impacts to the environment, recreation or other socio-cultural elements that the community enjoys on the causeway.”
Royal Stewart Arms resident Kelly Bliss said he is encouraged by the middle-bridge proposal but remains uncomfortable with the higher-bridge proposal.
“I’m concerned with the ease of foot and bike traffic with the high bridge. So many people use the bridge, and I’d hate to see this access become less desirable,” Bliss said.
The public’s opinion will be weighed heavily as a factor in this project. That is why officials say it is beneficial for them to attend events such as this workshop so that they will be able to fully understand the project and therefore make an informed decision.
“Initially my thought was to keep the bridges the way they were, but after seeing the alternatives, I see that it is reasonable to keep up with the times without going to the full extent of a high-level bridge,” said Dunedin resident Richard Howard. “My choice is to go with the medium-level bridge, which is still a movable bridge that will open in half the amount of time that this one does now.”
All comments submitted at Tuesday’s workshop will be reviewed and a recommended alternative will be determined based on those comments. The recommended alternative along with the no-build alternative will then be announced at a public hearing, which will take place in November.
However, some local seasonal residents are concerned about the date of this meeting.
“I think it is totally unfair that the public hearing on this isn’t scheduled until November because 65 percent of RSA residents will not be here at that time,” said Royal Stewart Arms resident Paul Beinert.
A 30-minute video played on a continuous loop during the meeting, and attendees had an opportunity to view the alternative bridge models from a 3-D perspective.