The Monroe County Commission and state transportation officials will have their first public joint discussion on Tuesday about the condition of the Old Seven Mile Bridge and plans to hand over the bridge to the county.
The county and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) are discussing restoring the top of the bridge between Pigeon and Knight's keys, and having the county take over the span's ownership and maintenance.
A county-contracted engineering firm that reviewed two 2012 FDOT inspection reports has said Monroe County would have to do $62 million in repairs over the next 30 years on the nearly 100-year-old bridge if it takes ownership.
The HDR firm is scheduled to present its report and answer questions when the commission meets Tuesday in Marathon.
FDOT has said it would pay half of an $18 million proposed renovation project. That would leave the county paying $9 million initially, but then $5.3 million over the first five years on deck repairs and another $28.6 million by its 10th year of ownership to replace the decks, floor beams and substructure, says HDR's report, which was released this month.
By year 20, the county would have to spend another $14.3 million to replace some floor beams and substructure, and another $4.9 million by year 30 to replace more such beams and substructure, it says.
"These costs are substantial, but so is the state of distress," HDR wrote in its report.
HDR concluded that the bridge is "structurally deficient," with a "poor" substructure rating. The steel substructure bracing system has "severe corrosion with associated minor section loss."
About 20,960 linear feet of open steel girder has "section loss due to corrosion that is sufficient to warrant structural review to determine the ultimate serviceability of the bridge."
"Today, the bridge is showing signs of distress and needs a long-term commitment to rehabilitate and maintain the bridge in accordance to current guidelines," the firm wrote.
The state closed the bridge to vehicle traffic and fishing in 2008.
"FDOT has continued conducting annual bridge inspections which reveal the structure has continued to deteriorate at an accelerated rate," HDR reported.
HDR is the first engineering firm to give the county projected long-term costs of taking control of the bridge. Before the firm's report, the county and FDOT had discussed only splitting the roughly $18 million FDOT said was needed to renovate the top sections of the bridge.
The County Commission has agreed to set money aside for its half. At its last budget hearing, County Commissioner Danny Kolhage argued that money already set aside for the bridge, $2.7 million, be put toward other capital projects and toward buying conservation land.
He argued that $2.7 million is a far cry from the eventual cost of $62 million.
"I think it could be put to better use," Kolhage said.
County Mayor George Neugent is researching various funding options, including using federal grant money to restore the bridge and possibly having the county taking over maintenance of just the top of the bridge, and FDOT remaining in control of the lower sections.
Neugent, who has been pushing for the restoration of the bridge, acknowledged the county couldn't afford a total of $62 million in costs.
The commission will discuss the bridge reports at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday at the Marathon Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway.