By Margie Plunkett
The East Ocean Avenue bridge will rise higher and open less frequently when it’s been newly reconstructed, but some nearby neighbors worry that will mean more noise.
Town Manager Mike Bornstein presented the new design of the county-owned bridge, on which construction will begin in summer 2011, to Council members last month. The bridge, which will cost the county about $30 million to rebuild, won’t reopen for about two years.
The span “is still safe, but it has to be replaced,” Mayor David Stewart said, explaining that a rating of 30 represents the threshold of safety – and the Lantana bridge is rated 32.
The bridge will rise from 13 feet to 21 feet, its noisy metal grating will be filled and its railings will be open to allow the beautiful views to show through, said Bornstein. The added height will mean the bridge will need to open 40 percent less to let boats through.
The widened bridge deck creates a wide sidewalk with a concrete barrier separating pedestrians and traffic, he said. The bridge keeper’s cupola is six-sided to provide visibility with tin roof and portholes. And the design beneath the bridge incorporates far fewer pilings, creating a clearer view. There will be room for two boats to pass underneath the bridge at the same time.
The town doesn’t intend to allow fishing from the bridge, hoping to provide a permanent structure underneath for anglers, Mayor Stewart said.
“The county has incorporated many of our concerns” in the new design, Bornstein said, noting at the end of the meeting newly raised concerns that he planned to bring to the engineers’ attention.
“I’m pleased with the bridge,” said Council member Elizabeth Tennyson, She praised the design elements that left intact views of the shimmering Intracoastal Waterway and lush shores. “Some bridges, when you drive across, you can’t see anything.” The structure also drew praise from other Council members, including Tom Deringer who said, “I think it’s a great bridge.”
But while one resident who lives right next to the bridge said the design perspective was nice, he said, “There is a need here to study noise mitigation to address how we can best meet the needs of the people living on the island.”
Mitch Mirchandani said because the bridge is three feet higher, the road noises won’t be absorbed by existing shrubbery and will travel further. Gone will be the whirring sound of cars rolling across the grate and the rhythmic thud when they cross joints in the concrete. But nothing will stop the sound of rubber on the road, Mirchandani said. In fact, because the bridge will open less means there will be more car noises.
Fewer bridge openings will mean less noise, however, Bornstein pointed out. But Mirchandani disagreed. “When you live near a bridge, the only time you get quiet is when the bridge is up.”
The mayor asked Bornstein to send Mirchandanis concern to county engineers. The Town Manager will also refer requests including to make the bridge the same color.
The logistics of closing the bridge for construction are immense, involving not only making new arrangements for garbage collection, fire and rescue services and water, but less obvious provisions such as finding a place for the traumahawk helicopter to land when needed.
“Simple things that you take for granted will be cut off for two years for Hypoluxo Island,” Bornstein said.