City to get new bridges

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By Lou Elliott Jones

Christmas has come a little early to Cedar Key and the state Department of Transportation is the Santa bringing three new bridges to town, replacing older, worn bridges considered dangerous and beyond their time. A fourth bridge in the county will also be replaced.  The good news came during the first meeting of the Levy County Board of Commissioners for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. The room became almost giddy as the news was revealed.  “In 2004 when I was appointed to this job,” Bruce Greenlee, Road Department administrative superintendent, said, “Commissioner Lilly Rooks put her hand on my back and said whatever you do never stop working to get those bridges replaced. Rooks, of Rosewood, represents Cedar Key on the commission.“Today I feel some relief from that hand on my back.”  With that, Greenlee announced that the following three Cedar Key bridges and one county bridge will be replaced by the state DOT:  • Airport bridge on County Road 456, known as Gulf Boulevard, from the creek to Daughtry Bayou  • Second airport bridge on County Road 456 at Lewis Pass  • C Street at Cedar Key Channel going to Dock Street, and  • County Road 326 at the Waccasassa River Cedar Key Mayor Sue Colson was astounded when she heard the news. “Well, that is truly a miracle, that is the answer to our prayers,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “We all knew it needed to be done. We all knew how bad it was.  “It's all our county commissioners helping, particularly Lilly who went to bat for this, and the road department.”  Colson also credited the good working relationship between her town and the county commission as helping bring home the projects.  “Miss Lilly has always been there for us and I know that Miss Drew has been down and learned our problems and Miss Bell has had a good rapport,” Colson said. Drew is Commissioner Marsha Drew of Yankeetown and Bell is Commission Chair Nancy Bell of Chiefland.  Greenlee estimated that the work will cost about $6-$7 million on the bridges. “I can tell you that when you are persistent and when you pursue relationships it will pay off,” he said.  Rooks said Greenlee's road crew had gotten out and documented the deteriorated condition of the bridges and the dangers they pose for state officials to see the need for replacement.  Rooks has persisted in bringing the matter of the bridges up to state and federal officials and legislators said the Road Department helped put together the case for the bridges. “Getting this funding has been a fight,” Rooks said.  County Coordinator Fred Moody called it “eight years of continuous griping.”  “Every time we would go to Tallahassee we would talk about the bridges,” Rooks said.  Moody said the C Street bridge is of prime importance in helping the city's tourism grow. “It was a real concern for trucks, especially those big beer trucks going over it,” Moody said.  “And those heavy food trucks too,” Rooks said, noting that the bridge leads to the town's restaurants which are a big draw for tourists.  Residents of Cedar Key, who are already gearing up to cope with other street and sewer improvements in the coming year by the Community Redevelopment Agency, will have to gear up for this construction.  Greenlee said he expects the work to be done one bridge at a time and said they can be replaced one lane at a time so traffic is not halted. He said having inspections that document the critical condition of the bridges helped bring them to state officials' attention.  “These are the worst of the worst in the county.” Moody said it also helped that the county showed a willingness to maintain new bridges by doing work on the old bridges to try sustaining them a bit longer.  Lou Elliott Jones is Editor of the Chiefland Citizen and can be reached at editor@chieflandcitizen.com.