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Brooks Bridge study
Next year's state budget includes more than six-point-five million dollars to study replacing the Brooks Bridge in Okaloosa County, and to look at the possibility of a second bridge.
The Brooks Bridge is the only connector between Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island. Millions of dollars have already been spent looking at alternatives, but nothing has ever moved off the drawing board.
Laura Hussey "This is Hollywood Boulevard. In the past, it's been seriously discussed as an alternative corridor for a second bridge to Okaloosa Island. It runs through one of the oldest neighborhoods in Fort Walton Beach"
Pat McKay lives at the end of Hollywood, right across from the bay. He remembers the mood in 2006, when the Emerald Coast Bridge Authority was discussing an elevated span over the neighborhood.
Pat McKay "Some people were actually worried about losing their whole home, not just having an eyesore right above their house"
Tom Rice remembers too. He was the chairman of the Emerald Coast Bridge Authority.
Tom Rice "This represents about a million and a half dollars of the Emerald Coast Bridge Authority studies"
They knew finding an alternative to the Brooks Bridge wouldn't be easy. The panel that came before them spent a million and a half bucks too.
Tom Rice "What I heard a lot was I'm all for transportation, as long as you build it over there"
They narrowed it down to three possibilities. Each met with strong public opposition, and the authority eventually went dormant.
Now the Florida Department of Transportation has said the Brooks Bridge must and will be replaced. They'll spend 3.5 million dollars studying how to do it with the least impact to downtown Fort Walton Beach. Another 3 million will be spent to study the feasibility of a second bridge.
Pat McKay "I didn't think it would ever happen. Just didn't seem like it would"
Tom Rice "Engineers can build anything. Engineers can build bridges that we can't even imagine. But consensus, that's going to be a hard thing to build"
Laura Hussey "Since the study has just been announced, it's not known what specific corridors might be considered during the two-year process."