Garcon Point Bridge could go to turnpike system
After the end of years of legal battling about Northwest Florida’s Garcon Point Bridge, the span could become part of the state turnpike system.
Senate Transportation Chairman Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, and Rep. Shane Abbott, R-DeFuniak Springs, filed bills (SB 1250 and HB 1305) this week that would allow the Department of Transportation to transfer the bridge to the turnpike system.
The bridge was the subject of a legal fight between bondholders and the state because it did not generate enough toll revenue. The department last year agreed to pay $134 million to take control of the bridge and to end the litigation. The Santa Rosa Bay Bridge Authority, which was created by the Legislature in 1992, issued bonds in 1996 to build the bridge over part of Pensacola Bay.
The lack of toll revenue to fully pay bondholders was complicated by the fact that the authority effectively became defunct in 2014. The bills filed this week said the department took control of the bridge last year through a lease-purchase agreement.
The bills also would transfer governance and control of the Santa Rosa Bay Bridge Authority to the department. Lawmakers will consider the proposals during the legislative session that will start March 7.