By Steve Plunkett
The city’s historic Camino Real Bridge will close for a year to motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians while the 79-year-old structure undergoes long-needed repairs.
The connection between the barrier island and the mainland is set to close April 12. Detour signs will direct vehicular and foot traffic to the Palmetto Park Road bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway.
Broward County-based Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. submitted the winning low bid of $8.9 million to Palm Beach County, which is responsible for the bridge.
The planned work includes minor widening of the fixed and bascule bridge elements and relocating the bridge-tender house from the south to the north on the island side. Also on the to-do list in the 253-foot-long project area are renovating and replacing the fender system, new mechanical equipment for the bridge, reconstruction of the roadway approaches and sidewalks and minor drainage improvements.
County engineers once hoped to tear down the bridge and replace it with a new, $44 million span, but learned during the permitting process that it was protected as part of a county historic district.
“The new bridge will have a similar architectural design, the same clearance height and a similar railing,” Boca Raton says on its website.
The two-lane drawbridge handles about 7,600 vehicles a day, according to the county’s Historic Traffic Growth Table for 2017. By comparison, about 15,200 vehicles use the four-lane span at Palmetto Park Road, the table shows.
The Camino Real roadway was originally designed by architect Addison Mizner to connect the railroad station to the Boca Raton Resort and Club. In 1929 developer Clarence Geist put a temporary swing bridge at the end of the road to cross the Intracoastal.
The Public Works Admini-stration built the permanent drawbridge 10 years later.
In 1997 the County Commission created the Camino Real Road and Bridge Historic District at the Boca Raton Historical Society’s urging.
“What makes the area and these resources so important is Boca Raton did not evolve like other cities of its age, but rather was born of a grand conceptual plan” by Mizner, the county’s registry of historic places says.
The bridge, also known as the Boca Raton Club Bridge, is one of three in the county deemed “structurally deficient” by the state. The others are the Southern Boulevard bridge connecting Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, which is now being replaced, and the U.S. 1 bridge over the Intracoastal in Jupiter. The state is evaluating replacement alternatives for the bridge.