Who was it
that said we needed to make the proposed new Winterberry
bridge taller anyway?
U.S. Coast Guard, the city council and island residents have
been up in arms as to the need to replace the deteriorating
bridge that was declared "structurally weak" by the
Florida Department of Transportation.
have even been raised as to who should govern the bridge's
waterway, but the Coast Guard says the controversy is purely a
"The city decided they wanted to replace the bridge and
proceeded with the assumption that it was under their
jurisdiction but it's not," said Greg Shapley, the
director of the bridge program for the 7th Coast Guard
district. "It falls in a special category because there
is a significant amount of navigation on it."
"We take care of a lot of bridges and that's why we have
certain rules in place that keep everything running
smoothly," he added, noting that he overseeing bridges
from the U.S. Virgin Islands to as far away as North Carolina.
Marco Island city officials didn't ask the Coast Guard for
approval to replace the bridge but already spent money hiring
an engineer to design a new one that is an inch higher.
"Last November, we got a letter saying that regardless of
what we did with the last bridges, we have to go through the
bridge process with this one," said Tim Pinter, the
senior project manager for the public works department
assigned to oversee the redesign and coordinate bridge
He has constructed several other bridges in Marco without
going through a procedure with the Coast Guard and admits the
new requirements are confusing.
"We are trying to find some reasoning and justification
as to why this bridge has become different from the
others," he said.
A new review team has been assigned to the Winterberry Bridge
and that may be the reason behind the new protocol.
"It's a shame that they already invested money but we
aren't in the business of telling them what to do,"
Shapley said. "We are here to make things happen for
residents of the community and we don't want it to cost them
The bridge program has semi-reviewed the city council's plan
for a new bridge but height concerns are delaying the building
of a bridge.
"We don't have any money amounts or heights confirmed
yet. We just know that this bridge they want to build is one
inch higher than the old one but that may not be enough,"
said Shapley whose team conducted a survey of residents and
found that some wanted a higher bridge.
The Coast Guard is concerned that larger boats would have to
wait until low tide to get past the bridge and that could
create a lot of unnecessary traffic.
The city, on the other hand, looked into accidents in the last
five years and found none, said Pinter.
"Residents who have lived here forever say this isn't
even a concern," he added.
The city is also concerned that a higher bridge would raise
the cost of the already $4.5 million dollar project.
The east and west slopes of the bridge would need to be much
longer, according to the public works department. That is a
"We have to give them options like either tearing it
down, going with a bridge that is one inch higher or making it
six inches like the (Coast Guard) wants," said Pinter,
who will submit an official questionnaire for approval to the
Coast Guard on Friday.
The bridge is set for completion in December of 2007 because
the city wants to avoid construction during season because of
the influx of tourists to the area.
"We have assured them that once we get an application we
will make this a priority. We know they spent money on this
already," Shapley said. "The citizens have a keen
interest in this and we want something that will work for