The public prefers a Florida Vernacular style bridge, similar to the one in this photo, to replace the aging main bridge on the Dunedin Causeway.
CLEARWATER – It may not be the most economical solution, but Pinellas County staff concurs with consultants and others that the mid-level movable bridge would work best to replace the aging infrastructure on the Dunedin Causeway.
Pinellas County Commissioners are expected to decide between three alternatives during an Aug. 23 public hearing at 6 p.m. in the fifth floor Assembly Room of the Courthouse at 318 Court St. in Clearwater.
Commissioners listened to an update about the Dunedin Causeway Bridges Project Development and Environment Study Aug. 4. The approximately 2 mile-long project runs from Honeymoon Island State Park, west of Royal Steward Arms Parkway east to the intersection of Gary Place/Gary Circle on Ward Island.
Pinellas County Commissioners need to decide between alternatives for replacing the main bridge and the tidal relief bridge. Alternatives for the main bridge include no-build, low-level movable bridge, mid-level movable bridge and high-level movable bridge. Two alternatives are in play for the tidal relief bridge: no-build and low-level fixed bridge.
Specifications for the low-level movable alternative call for a 21-foot vertical clearance with a maximum grade of 3 percent, which is the same as the existing bridge. Estimated cost is $67.7 million. A mid-level movable bridge would have a 35-foot vertical clearance, eliminating the need for about half the bridge openings that occur now. The maximum grade also would be about 3 percent. A benefit would be the potential for reduced damage from storm waves and corrosion. Estimated cost is $71.9 million
The most economical choice is the high-level fixed alternative with a 65-foot vertical clearance, which would eliminate the need for bridge openings entirely. The maximum grade would be 4.75 percent. It also would provide a potential benefit of reduced damage from storm waves and corrosion. Estimated cost is $50.7 million.
The estimated cost of a low-level fixed tide relief bridge is $9.3 million. It would be built with a 14.5-foot minimum navigational clearance and have 115 feet clearance for boats between piers. It would have a 4.75 percent maximum grade for short distance and be approximately 9-feet tall at the highest point.
After a series of meetings with the public and listening to the preferences from the city of Dunedin, the consultants and county staff are recommending the mid-level movable alternative although construction costs are higher as is the price of future operations and maintenance.
The mid-level preserves more recreational space and keeps the grade low enough to accommodate walkers and bicyclists traveling the Pinellas Trail, which runs along the bridge. The public also prefers a Florida Vernacular style.