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Rendering of new Big Carlos Pass Bridge with 60-foot vertical clearance

Time is almost up to see what the Big Carlos Pass Bridge could look like before the physical work begins.

The bridge is 55 years old and in need of replacement, but some people have raised concerns over the proposal.

They like the idea of a wider bridge, especially for biking and walking, but not taller.

What’s now a draw bridge could become a fixed span bridge with a 60-foot vertical clearance.

Stephen LaBelle is the Island Beach Club Board of Directors president. “It’s magic being on the barrier islands here. That’s why we live here.”

It’s no secret why LaBelle calls this slice of paradise home, and he doesn’t want to lose his view of the Gulf to a taller bridge.

“The bridge needs to be made wider so that we can walk across it, so that we can bike across it, because it’s dangerous to bike across it right now, so it needs to be made wider, but it does not need to be made any higher,” LaBelle explained.

CGT Kayaks Owner John Paeno fears what a bigger bridge could mean for the environment and his business.

Paeno questions, “If you start opening it up to these larger boats, what kind of impact is that going to have?”

Current Big Carlos Pass Bridge.

Project spokesperson Kris Cella, with Molnar & Associates, said a new bridge with a 60-foot clearance for boats is the most economic choice, “It’s at a point in its life where it either gets rehabilitated, which would be around $40 million and it only half a lifespan of 20 years … (or) a new bridge would last a lot longer and be less expensive.”

She says the project, which includes wider space for bikers and walkers, had to go through environmental checks too, “Including threatened endangered species, wetlands, floodplains, noise, contamination, cultural and historic resources, and air quality construction effects.”

Lee County says, now that public hearings are over, a final document will go to the Florida Department of Transportation.

Once approved, construction is expected to start​ in 2022.

For more information, you can visit the bigcarlosbridgeproject.com.

New Big Carlos Pass Bridge rendering.

 

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
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