Drivers who use U.S. 1 to travel between the Florida counties of Brevard and Indian River on the state’s central east coast will soon be able to get across the Sebastian River via a new single-span bridge currently being built to replace the old twin spans.
Although Interstate 95 is several miles to the west, the venerable U.S. 1 is still one of Florida’s key north-south transportation routes, with more than 20,000 vehicles passing over the river each day.
The new 980-ft. (299 m) long bridge is currently being built just south of the Brevard County town of Micco at the point where the Sebastian River meets the Indian River. A total of 12 bridge supports will have been driven into the riverbed when the $18 million project is completed.
When the bridge opens in September or October it will replace twin spans that have carried traffic over the river for more than 50 years (at that point along U.S. 1, the route shares the roadway with Florida Highway 5).
In fact, the northbound span has been in service since the 1920s and was used to carry traffic in each direction for 30 years before the southbound bridge was built next to it in 1957.
Besides suffering from age and deterioration, both bridges also were damaged during the 2004 hurricane season when a series of storms swept through Florida. They also have been under regular attack by the salt air from the Atlantic Ocean, located just a few miles to the east across the Intracoastal Waterway.
“Those old bridges really saw a lot of service, but they were really too narrow for traffic today,” said Hector Matos, project administrator of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). “They had 11-foot lanes and no shoulder whatsoever, making them about 30 feet wide, roughly.”
Matos said that the new bridge is almost 70 ft. (21 m) wide, with two lanes traveling in each direction, a 10-ft. (3 m) shoulder and sidewalks on each side. It also will be slightly arched and about 5 ft. (1.5 m) farther off the water than the previous bridges. The only boats that pass under the new bridge are small pleasure craft, he added.
Work began in November 2007 and by May 2008 the first concrete decking was poured for the southbound lanes. Vehicles began streaming across the finished southbound portion of the bridge late last year while work progressed on the northbound section. Throughout the project, two-way traffic — one lane in each direction — has been maintained, Matos explained.
“Now we are connecting the northbound bridge and we just finished pouring our first two spans of the deck,” he added in mid-March. “We’ve got about, roughly, another 750 feet to go to get to the other side.”
The new bridge’s opening will be a welcome relief for the many residents of the area, both in terms of easing the traffic tie-ups from having only two lanes open and the noise from the construction.
Matos does not anticipate any problems completing the bridge by the fall because of two key factors: the good weather that the area has enjoyed and the professionalism of the project’s general contractor, Misener Marine Construction Inc. of Tampa. The firm has done all the pile driving for the bridge supports, as well as the concrete work.
“It has been a pretty problem free job,” he said. “[Misener Marine] is a very good company and they have done an excellent job. We have not had any real issues on the project — everything has been worked out. The pile driving has gone quite well, as has the concrete pours. It is very rare in this industry for everything to go so smoothly.”
The new bridge should last for 50 to 60 years, Matos said, and will be inspected every two years.
According to data compiled by the Brevard Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2008, an average of 20,110 vehicles travel over the river each day. Indeed, many people live along that section of the U.S. 1 corridor and use the road to access Interstate 95 from the nearby Indian River County towns of Roseland and Wabasso.
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