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Florida Keys News
Thursday, March 20, 2014
It's official: All agree to bridge plan
30 years of promised TLC ahead for historic bridge

Monroe County, the city of Marathon, and the Florida Department of Transportation have all signed on to a $77 million plan to repair and maintain the Old Seven Mile Bridge, with FDOT paying the lion's share of the costs.

FDOT has also agreed to maintain ownership of the bridge, which relieves the local governments of liability in the event of an accident or the bridge collapses and becomes an hazard to navigation.

"We are leaving a legacy for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to follow," FDOT District 6 Secretary Gus Pego said. "I relish the opportunity to put this project on my bucket list."

The county commission gave its formal approval on the agreement on Wednesday. Commissioner Danny Kolhage was the only commissioner to vote against the plan, as he would like to see the county to fund projects on bridges and roads motorists actually use. The Old Seven Mile Bridge has long been shut down to vehicular traffic.

The agreement calls for 30 years worth of repairs and upgrades to the 100-year-old bridge that once carried Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad.

Under the terms of the agreement, FDOT would pay $57 million of the projected $77 million in repair and maintenance costs during the next 30 years. Monroe County would pay $14.2 million, and Marathon would pay $5.3 million. The county would have to pay an additional $720,000 up front to repair the Pigeon Key ramp, according to the agreement.

Last week, the Marathon City Council voted unanimously in favor of the agreement. On Wednesday, County Commissioner George Neugent thanked Marathon for its commitment to the project.

"We are going to build a (linear) park that will be world renowned," Neugent said.

Hickory House solicitation

The commission agreed to once again put the Hickory House on Stock Island out to bid.

On several occasions, the commission has sought proposals for leasing or buying the aging waterfront building and docks the county purchased in 2006 for $3.1 million.

The commission has been trying to sell the property for more than six years.

The county decided to solicit offers because developer Pritam Singh has expressed interest in buying it, Singh told The Citizen. Singh recently purchased the neighboring Oeanside Marina and is redeveloping it.

Singh could not say exactly what he plans to do with the Hickory House property, only to say that he would an extension of his current redevelopment plan at Oceanside.

"It would give me extra space to work with," Singh told The Citizen before the meeting.

The former owners of Oceanside Marina tentatively agreed to purchase the property from the county in 2008, but later backed out of the contract.

Between 2009 and 2013, the county has put the property out for a request for proposals five times. Proposals have included fish houses, restaurants and small marinas. County staff has negotiated with various businesses, but the county commission has rejected all requests it has received so far.

tohara@keysnews.com

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