CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A decision from Lee County commissioners will have a major impact on drivers. Could commissioners vote to completely replace the Cape Coral bridge? It's a conversation they discussed on Monday during a workshop.
Many expressed interest in leaning toward a replacement rather than repairs. It also needs work due to other factors.
"Because of this new rule that says we have to prevent vessel collisions under the bridge, it would be extremely costly to retrofit the old bridge," said Brian Hamman, Chair of Lee County Commission.
There are two options they can decide on. One will cost $198 million and it would replace the westbound lanes of the bridge. Eastbound would see a widened underbelly for boats. It would have a 35-year lifespan.
"Long term it wouldn't be worth it because we would be replacing another bridge later anyway within 30 years," said Cecil Pendergrass, a Lee County commissioner.
Option two would be to replace it completely and that would cost $218 million. However, it would give it a 75-year lifespan and have fewer roadway costs in the long run.
When an option is chosen and construction begins, it could be finished by 2029.
There was no decision made, though commissioners had another topic of discussion on the table: the Sanibel Causeway. There are temporary repairs done now because of Hurricane Ian.
Pendergrass calls the permanent fixes a "no-brainer," but he's concerned about the bottom line for taxpayers.
"We're already paying $6 now to cross that bridge," he said. "How much more is it going to be after the construction?"
Lee County would pay $51 million towards the $285 million project, where most of the money will come from the state and federal government.
At this point it's not whether or not the Causeway will get permanent solutions, it's if they will be resilient. The Florida Department of Transportation has brought forward "resiliency components," which is designed to make the bridge last longer and withstand the elements.
"If we ever see another storm like this again, hopefully, it will hold up a lot better," Hamman said. "We could see the permanent repairs completed over the next 12 months."