BY MARCY SHORTUSE – On Thursday, Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. in the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium, the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority will hold a public workshop regarding weight restrictions on the new swing bridge.
They obviously won’t be making the decision right away, as the bridge won’t be completed until sometime in 2016. But we have a diligent board, and they are getting everything together as early as they can.
Currently the bridge weight limit is set at 40,000 pounds. When the swing bridge is complete it will be rated for 80,000 pounds, according to the regulations used to construct the bridge.
GIBA has not set that weight restriction in stone yet, and the reason they are having a public workshop is to get public input.
A 40,000-pound weight restriction is a huge hassle for many people, such as construction workers and shop owners who rely on deliveries. When contractors can bring more concrete or I-beams over the bridge at one time, it saves them time, saves the person paying for the project money, and the job gets done quicker. It’s that simple. When a store can have more inventory delivered in one load, it’s better for them and means less truck traffic on the island.
To take that line of thought further, Lee County is waiting to see when the project is complete so they can start repaving the island’s roads. There are other large-scale construction jobs that are on hold as well, with contractors waiting for a time when they can haul bigger loads across the bridges.
Remember, bigger loads mean fewer trips for the contractor as well as lower costs for those footing the bill for the projects.
People who oppose the weight restriction increase might have several reasons for their concerns, but the concern Ihave heard most is the fear of tour buses. That’s a whole different ball of wax, a whole different set of regulations, and a whole new topic for another time.
People have been stopping by the Beacon office with concerns about the weight restriction possibly not being lifted. I don’t have this information yet. The bridge board doesn’t either. We have some time to talk about it, as the bridge isn’t anywhere near complete.
If you have a personal interest in the swing bridge’s weight restrictions, you should attend the meeting. We will continue to listen to your concerns, and if you’d like to write a guest editorial for our paper, Ihope you do so. We just want the island’s voices to be heard.
Marcy Shortuse is the editor of the Boca Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.