A public hearing on a proposed project to replace the Beckett Bridge in Tarpon Springs is Feb. 26 at the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club
TARPON SPRINGS – The next step in the replacement of the Beckett Bridge will be a public hearing, scheduled by Pinellas County in cooperation with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
The public hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club, 350 N. Spring Blvd., Tarpon Springs. The open house will run from 5 to 7:30 p.m., with the formal presentation beginning at 6 p.m.
The bridge, originally constructed as a wooden bridge in 1924 and repaired in 1956, 1979, 1998 and 2011, crosses Minetta and Whitcomb Bayous west of Alt. U.S. 19. But despite all the repairs, Beckett Bridge is considered functionally obsolete because of its narrow width; the sidewalks are only about 2 feet wide and there are no shoulder or bicycle lanes. The bridge was not designed for “current” heavy vehicles, including school buses, fire trucks and ambulances.
In October, County Commissioners unanimously approved a recommendation to replace the bridge, as opposed to other options including widening the bridge or continuing to make repairs on the existing bridge. The new movable bridge, featuring 11-foot travel lanes, 5.5-foot shoulders and two 6-foot sidewalks, is estimated to cost $15.8 million, although costs will be recalculated before final approval of the project.
However, the plan to replace Beckett Bridge has not been without struggle; many Tarpon Springs residents oppose the plan because they do not want to see the historic bridge destroyed. Project Manager Tony Horrnik has expressed his goal to preserve elements of the bridge, but said that following the methods of other historical bridges of using original railings in the rebuilt bridge is impossible due to safety standards.
At an October Tarpon Springs City Commission meeting, Horrnik also said that, over a 100-year period, the most cost effective option would be to replace Beckett Bridge by 2020. Even if the county voted for rehabilitation, he said, the bridge would still likely have to be replaced by 2038.
Anyone who wants to submit a written statement or other exhibit, in place of or in addition to an oral statement, can do so at the hearing or mail his or her presentation to Tony Horrnik, P.E., S.I., Project Manager, Pinellas County, Dept. of Environment and Infrastructure, 14 S. Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater, FL 33756. All statements must be postmarked on or before March 8.
Draft project documents also will be available for public viewing until March 8 at the Tarpon Springs Public Library, 138 Lemon St., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689, and the Tarpon Springs City Clerk’s office, 410 North Ring Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.