Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday announced that Florida will spend $90 million over the next three years for bridge work along the Tamiami Trail.
"This $90 million investment will be a huge step forward in our efforts to restore water quality throughout South Florida," Scott said in Fort Myers Wednesday. "Every drop of water that we can send south and keep out of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries is a win for Florida families."
The plan, to build a new 2.6-mile bridge on the Tamiami, is geared toward allowing more freshwater to flow from the north into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay -- a key component of Everglades restoration. Increasing the capacity to move water across the trail has gained greater urgency over the summer, as heavy rains have forced water managers to release large volumes of polluted water out of Lake Okeechobee and through the St. Lucie and Caloosahathcee rivers. The releases have fueled algae blooms and marred marine life in those rivers.
Environmental groups hailed the announcement, which came just a week after Scott committed $40 million to complete a stormwater treatment project near the St. Lucie.
"The additional 2.6-mile bridge is the next vital step to restoring water flows and distribution that marine wildlife, fisheries and nesting colonies of birds rely on, including the endangered Everglades snail kite and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow," Theresa Pierno, acting president for the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a prepared statement.
The span would be close to the 1-mile Tamiami Trail bridge that was completed in April. In total, restoration plans call for 6.5 miles of bridge over a 10.7-mile segment of the eastern Tamiami. The roadway connects Miami to Naples.
In April, the Obama administration proposed spending $30 million in 2014 on the second Tamiami bridge. However, Congress, beset by partisan bickering, has yet to pass a budget for the coming year.
The 2.6-mile span is expected to cost $180 million, with the federal and state governments splitting the cost.
Florida would match federal expenditures up to $30 million annually for three years. Money would come from Department of Transportation funds, a press release from Scott's office said.