TBO.com – By Kevin Wiatrowski – January 22, 2013
Mayor Bob Buckhorn is asking the City Council to approve nearly $2 million for emergency repairs to the aging Laurel Street Bridge after state officials discovered the drawbridge can no longer function properly. Council members will consider the request on Thursday. Inspectors with the Department of Transportation told the city in October the machinery that lifts the bridge has large cracks that allowed one of the gears to slip out of alignment. The damage was severe enough to close the bridge to boat traffic. In their report to the City Council, city officials say the damaged gear doesn’t affect the surface of the bridge, which carries more than 5,000 cars a day. Venice-based Coastal Marine Construction Inc. won the bid to repair the bridge. It was one of two companies to apply for the job.
The 86-year-old Laurel Street Bridge is one of eight drawbridges that cross the Hillsborough River between Hillsborough Avenue and Platt Street. All of them are close in age, but two – Platt and Columbus Drive – have undergone recent renovations. The Laurel Street repairs will claim pretty much all the money the city has set aside for bridge repairs this year, according to the city’s five-year transportation plan. The money comes from the city’s surcharge on gasoline. Coastal Marine’s bid calls for replacing bearings, switches and other electrical devices as well installing a new control panel and brake system. The Coast Guard requires that the city’s drawbridge open to allow the passage of watercraft too tall to pass under them safely. While that can include sailboats, more recently it has included barges carrying cranes used to construction parts of the Riverwalk.