EDITORIAL: Brooks Bridge plans not as daunting as originally thought
As progress inches forward in determining the best way to replace the aging Brooks Bridge, folks who live or work in its shadow have reason to pay close attention.
There is no way to replace the span without affecting some private property owners. But according to a new study shared with the public Tuesday, the number of private property owners affected is much smaller than ever anticipated.
The study, completed by HDR Inc., promises not to destroy downtown Fort Walton Beach, preserving the Publix shopping center and the Emerald Coast Convention Center, as well as most other area businesses.
A few older businesses, including Pat’s Bait Shop and the Playground Motel, are likely to take a hit and road work may affect other buildings in the area. But overall, the new design was good news for the downtown area, after decades of uncertainty.
The ease with which a three-lane bridge, complete with bike lanes and pedestrian crossings, will seemingly fit into the downtown area was surprising after years of trepidation.
Discussions about replacing the bridge have been taking place for about 30 years with no resolution. Last week’s announcement that the U.S. Air Force supported only those options that are essentially in the current bridge’s footprint helped further cement the direction future plans would take.
While the path of its development principally affects those who are in the way, the future of Brooks Bridge has a much larger impact. It connects folks traveling from the west to Okaloosa Island, Destin and beyond. Folks use the bridge to get to school, work, shopping, beaches and back home again.
Even the smallest accident on the overtaxed bridge can cause traffic to back up for miles and those snafus can take hours to untangle.
We still have a long way to go before a new bridge is a reality. Construction of this magnitude will make even the much-delayed Gap Creek project seem to move at lightning speed.
In the end, it will be worth it if we have a bridge that works, providing vital connections between Destin and Fort Walton Beach and beyond.