While many are excited about the design proposals for the new Pensacola Bay Bridge, one Pensacola City Council member is not among them.
Along with serving on the Council, Brian Spencer is also an architect and developer. He views the bridge project in that light, as well as an interested observer.
“I’ve been able to travel to many different cities, both in the United States as well as abroad,” said Spencer. “And find more often than not, cities provide these bridges as a signature to a community, a district, or a city.”
Spencer had hoped that the Florida Department of Transportation could have placed more of the grading of the projects to the more creative design solutions, and perhaps a bit less on technical aspects. He points to Charleston, South Carolina as an example.
“The Cooper River Bridge, the $540 million solution,” said Spencer. “One of the contractors, Flatiron [Construction Corporation], which came in with a much higher bid, was the design-build contractor for that one. Charleston is very proud of the two [bridge] towers.”
Ian Satter with FDOT says Skanska USA, the winning bidder, and the other four competing firms were required to include certain features in their proposals.
“It will be a six-lane facility,” Satter said. “Plans call for a ten-foot multi-use path to bike and jog there as well. There will be wider shoulders, so if somebody’s car breaks down, they’ll be able to pull over. You won’t have those traffic delays”
Two committees scored what were offered by the five design firms. Technical issues went before one panel, the other looked at selection. In particular, Councilman Brian Spencer finds fault with the two arches in the proposed span, calling them a “diluted gesture.”
Another concern for Spencer is that a lack of public input was one of the regretful steps that was overlooked and diminished during the scoring and selection processes.
“There are so many voices and perspectives in our community that wanted to participate in what FDOT advertises as a public workshop,” Spencer said. “The input was minimal, if any, on the bridge design.”
Those attending the FDOT workshops were instead given information on location alternatives for the new bridge, which weren’t significantly different from the current span.
In the next few weeks, FDOT’s Ian Satter says they’ll get the contract signed with Skanska USA, release all the design proposals, and go from there.
“We have the initial design, and we’ll be getting some public involvement regarding the aesthetics and other features of the bridge,” says Satter. “And then moving forward wit the actual construction, hoping to break ground either late 2016 or early 2017.”
Bridges, says City Councilman/Architect Brian Spencer, are a celebration of man’s achievement. And he feels there are other, better ways to mold concrete and steel into the new Bay Bridge than what’s been seen so far.