Will $120 million bridge construction hurt Jupiter, Tequesta business?


Highlights

Bridge construction in Jupiter would take between 3 and 4 years

Business people near bridge in Jupiter fear loss of customers

Good news for north county boaters, motorists, pedestrians and bicycle riders: A new $120 million drawbridge is planned over the Loxahatchee River just north of Burt Reynolds Park.

Boaters will have a higher bridge to pass under. Motorists won’t have to stop as often to wait for the draw bridge to open and close. Bicycle riders will have seven-foot wide lanes. Pedestrians get eight-foot-wide lanes.

The bad news?

The work on the busy, four-lane drawbridge between Jupiter and Tequesta is expected to take between three to four years, depending on what construction method is selected by the Jupiter Town Council. Construction is planned to start in July 2021.

“We are working together with the local government to determine which is the best method,” said Nadir Rodrigues, the project manager for the Florida Department of Transportation.

Business owners are bracing for a sharp drop in revenue. They want the draw bridge to stay open the entire time construction takes place.

“We’re going to get hammered. Small places like us are really going to feel it. My customers will not drive an extra 10-15 minutes for breakfast,” said Ryan Perez, co-owner of the Lighthouse Diner on the Tequesta side of the bridge.

On the Jupiter side, Harbourside Place and the restaurants in the Inlet Village on A1A will take a big hit, said Jim Taube, owner of u-Tiki and Jetty’s restaurants. A large portion of that area’s clientele crosses the draw bridge from Stuart and Hobe Sound, he said.

“If they close that bridge, there will be layoffs,” said Taube.

READ: Will Jupiter’s no-wake zone be extended?

A public hearing on Oct. 24 is planned with state transportation officials to discuss the new draw bridge plan.

Three options of bridge construction are being considered:

* Conventional draw bridge construction. One lane would be kept open in each direction during draw bridge construction, which would take about 36 months. Overall construction, which includes landscaping, lighting and other work, would be about 48 months. Traffic would be shut down completely in both directions occasionally during off-peak and night time hours.

* Accelerated draw bridge construction. At least one lane would be kept open in each direction during construction, which would be a total of about 45 months. This method would cost more.

* Closing the draw bridge during construction. The draw bridge would be completely shut down for about one year during construction. Draw bridge users would have to use Alternate A1A and Indiantown Road as alternate routes. The advantage to this method is that total construction time would be reduced to 33 months.

Exact costs for all three methods have not been determined.

The new bascule bridge — a bascule bridge is a drawbridge — is planned to have a 35-foot clearance for boats. That’s 10 feet higher than the existing draw bridge. The Indiantown Road draw bridge also has a 35-foot clearance.

By comparison, the Blue Heron Bridge, which is stationary, has a 65-foot clearance.

The new draw bridge will be about 100 feet wide. That’s about 35 feet wider than the current span.

There are no plans to change the on-demand status for opening the U.S. 1 bridge for boaters. Changing the schedule to open every 30 minutes, like the Indiantown Road draw bridge, requires the approval of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The higher draw bridge means about 44 percent fewer draw bridge openings will be required to allow boaters to pass. The new draw bridge will increase the boat clearance area from 90 feet to 125 feet. That will allow two boats to pass underneath at the same time.

About 21,000 motorized vehicles daily go over the draw bridge, which was built in 1958. The new bridge is expected to last 75 years, according to county records.



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