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Dunedin weighs in on causeway study
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A photo of north side of the Dunedin Causeway Bridge looking west is part of the 2009 feasibility report done by HDR Engineering in Tampa.
DUNEDIN – City commissioners received assurances April 3 that a study on the Dunedin Causeway will consider several alternatives and the process will involve heavy public input.

A presentation by a county official to city commissioners was intended to allay the public’s fears that the public is not going to have a say in the project, Mayor Dave Eggers said. The process, which could take a couple of years, is just in its beginning stages, he said.

David Talhouk, Pinellas County’s grant program administrator, gave an overview of process, which is being done in conjunction with a federal policy for federally funded projects.

He emphasized that the feasibility study conducted in 2009 on the bridge “in no way prejudices or contaminates” the process.

“In other words we are basically revisiting all the alternatives,” he said. “No decisions have been made.”

The 2009 study said the existing Dunedin Causeway bridges do not meet current design standards and are classified as “functionally obsolete.” It said the replacement of the existing bridges and improvement to the causeway will result in improved traffic flow, increased safety for area residents, and reduced operating and maintenance costs.

The Causeway, a drawbridge, was built in 1963, with a design life of 50 years.

Commissioner Julie Ward-Bujalski said in the 2009 study “there was very, big long bridge that enveloped the entire causeway. That was the last thing people saw. That was the big bridge to nowhere. So I’m saying that is not a foregone conclusion?”

“That’s correct,” Talhouk said.

He also said the process would also take in consideration cultural and aesthetic concerns, noting that the causeway is a linear park that has economic values. Ward-Bujalski said that the bridge serves people who are going to the state park with the highest attendance, Honeymoon Island.

“We don’t want some plain concrete thing … ,” she said.

An overview that Talhouk presented said that one of the objectives of the study is to perform social, environmental and engineering studies of a proposed transportation improvement to support if and where a project should be built and alternatives.

The development of the project is required to meet national environmental standards to be eligible for federal funding.

Public meetings will be held with county agencies and the City Commission. Meetings also will be held with citizen groups throughout the process. A public hearing will be held once an alternative is selected and input has been received. Eggers said the City Commission will have a committee monitor the process.

“This is very much a public process, and it was set up to take in account the public’s view,” Talhouk said.

Commissioner Heather Gracy said Talhouk had added a “higher regard and respect for the process and I appreciate that. Words like coordination and collaboration mean a lot to our city and our residents.”
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