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Uncertain future for the Brooks Bridge
The Brooks Bridge is the only direct route from Fort Walton Beach to Okaloosa Island and Destin.
Senator Don Gaetz has earmarked thousands of dollars to conduct a study of the bridge. Channel Three's Rob Brown is in Ft. Walton with more on the bridge's past, and it's future.
The Brooks Bridge was built in 1966, and over the past fifteen years, there's been multiple calls to either upgrade or even replace the bridge. Those calls were renewed in March of this year, when a barge struck the bridge. You can see the repaired damage here. All traffic that day between Ft. Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island and Destin was shut down for hours.
With three hundred million in D.O.T. money coming to the Panhandle, Senator Don Gaetz has separated some funds for the study.
It will look at the environmental and residential effects of replacing the bridge entirely or supplementing it with another bridge elsewhere.
Some in the community say the bridge, as is, can often create a mess.
Nik Flagstar "Between April and September every year. Yeah. (It's just that bad?) It's that bad. If I can avoid going to Destin on the bridge in the summer, I do."
Nik Flagstar lives and works near the bridge.
He says a larger structure would benefit commuters and businesses on both sides.
Nik Flagstar "A wide bridge, wider sidewalks would help downtown receive traffic from cars and from pedestrians and from bicyclists coming back this way. And just a wider bridge to get everybody who works out in Destin to work every day would be a huge help."
Tom Rice was head of the group who conducted the last study, in 2001.
He says the survey must provide a solution the community can agree on.
Tom Rice "The transportation group from our state will not force a transportation solution down a community that does not want it. Do not fear that we will give you something that you do not want because they have a lot of other places to spend the money."
He says for a study to result in action, locals must compromise.
Tom Rice "The interesting thing I always try to explain to people is pretty much everyone's for transportation, and for some solution to problems with it, as long as it's over there. And that becomes the rub."
Rob Brown "The only failing grade the bridge received? Capacity, the ability to efficiently carry adequate traffic flow. In Ft. Walton Beach, Rob Brown, Channel Three News."