BY RYAN MCCARTHY
July 2, 2014
An agreement struck last year between Monroe County, the city of Marathon and the state Department of Transportation to save a portion of the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge could start bearing fruit in early 2016.
DOT spokeswoman Sandra Bello said the agency is “currently in the design phase” to refurbish the 2.2-mile section of the span leading to Pigeon Key offshore of Marathon.
“The anticipated estimated construction dates are March 2016 to September 2017,” Bello said. “In addition, the department will continue with the routine inspections and maintenance to guarantee the safety of pedestrians.”
Bello said DOT has an agreement in place with Monroe County, which in turn has a separate agreement with the city of Marathon for the project.
Working together isn’t always easy among Keys entities, so the deal to get the iconic bridge repaired was considered a huge victory. It appeared to materialize quickly, though officials were working behind the scenes for some time.
The Monroe Country Commission gave final approval to the $77.5 million spending plan to repair the bridge before a packed Marathon Government Center meeting room in December. The following evening, the Marathon City Council voiced unanimous support for the plan.
The bridge has been closed to auto traffic and fishing for years because the state Department of Transportation has deemed it unsafe.
As proposed, DOT would pay $57.2 million toward the cost over 30 years and retain ownership of the bridge. Monroe County would pitch in $14.24 million and Marathon $5.34 million.
The money would finance everything from a couple of repaintings to repairing the deck to building a new ramp to Pigeon Key
“FDOT does not anticipate changing the bridge aesthetically; we will just be repairing and restoring the bridge,” Bello said of expected design.
Bello said it’s unclear whether fishing would again be allowed from the bridge, but that it would be clear to handle mild vehicular traffic.
“The purpose of this project is to restore safe access to Pigeon Key. The structural capacity of the bridge will be restored to support pedestrian load, typical emergency and service vehicles, and a small passenger shuttle vehicle,” she said.