Lake County Commission approves construction of new bridge
Tracy Jacim, Reporter
TAVARES, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -- A 63-year-old bridge on State Road 19 in Lake County connects Tavares and Astatula to Howey-in-the-Hills. It has cracks, crevices, rust, and has sagging and clogged drainage -- all things that will eventually cause big problems.
Those are the many reasons why, according to Parks, the county approved construction of a new one $47 million replacement bridge.
"It's still safe to drive on, but it's useful life is running out," said County Commissioner Sean Parks, adding that a recent inspection by the Florida Department of Transportation reveals that four years may be all it has left. "Bridges are expensive, and eventually, they have to be replaced," Parks said.
Self-described "fiscal watchdog" Vance Jochim said, "There are people here, elected officials, who think if we can get federal money, we should get it to pay for something, even if we don't need it right now."
The new bridge will be paid for with state and federal money. Jochim said if a new bridge will be needed in four years, it should be a scaled down replacement. He questioned new standards that require bike lanes, and sidewalks, and additional expenses.
"It probably triples the width of the existing right of way you got, then the government and taxpayer have to pay," Jochim said.
Lake County Commissioners believe that, down the road, the bridge could be widened to four car lanes if traffic demands. There will eventually be a new turnpike interchange nearby, which is expected to attract new business and homes; thus more traffic.
In the meantime, the new bridge will be built just east of the current one, and the current one will eventually be demolished.
"There'll be a cost associated with pulling it out, but the cost to keep it is much more money," Parks said.
Construction of the bridge is scheduled to start in four years. You have that long to decide if it's worth it or wasted.