In the still forests of the Big Bend region of North Florida, a pristine dark water, 44-mile river flows south and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts frequent what the Creek Indians named “ekana feno,” translating loosely to “earth” and “bridge.”
Last Thursday evening, a newly constructed “ekana feno” opened on U.S. 221 in Shady Grove in Taylor County, providing motorists a modern bridge spanning the Econfina River. The previous bridge was built in 1939.
Construction by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began in January 2015 to replace the 76-year-old bridge.
A temporary metal bridge (called an Acrow bridge) was used to carry traffic while the old bridge was removed and replaced. FDOT determined it was more economical to replace the old bridge than to continue making repairs.
The health of Florida’s bridge inventory ranks among the best in the nation. The old Econfina River Bridge is a good example of the term “structurally deficient” as it is used by FDOT’s bridge maintenance system.
Although the bridge was safe to travel across, it was built in 1939 with narrow lanes and shoulders and low bridge railing by current standards. It was also load restricted. FDOT’s aggressive bridge maintenance program ensures that even the most historic bridges in the state’s inventory remain safe for the traveling public until it becomes more cost-reasonable to replace rather than repair them.
The new bridge is a concrete two-lane bridge with 12-foot travel lanes, an eight-foot wide emergency lane on the west side, a 12-foot wide emergency lane on the east side for increased vehicle visibility and 32-inch high concrete barrier wall along each side as railing. It cost $3.6 million to build.
Motorists should still expect slight delays and lane closures over the next few weeks while the final layer of asphalt is placed on bridge approaches and the temporary bridge is dismantled.
Your patience is greatly appreciated during this construction to maintain Northeast Florida’s transportation infrastructure. Of the 50 million people who travel by car into Florida, 40 million travel through FDOT’s District Two.