City officials stood with city and county politicians during a Florida Department of Transportation ribbon cutting ceremony this morning; next to a handful of people who work for a living from design firm GAI Consultants and contractor Archer Western who marked the reopening of the San Sebastian Bridge.
The $13.5 million replacement of the former 51-year-old bridge was accelerated using a proven process of “design-build” instead of conventional design and construction methods; the resulting bridge is expected to last 75 years.
The work on the San Sebastian Bridge took about 18 months to complete; so as not to conflict with the city’s 450th commemoration. By comparison, it took nearly five-years to replace the Bridge of Lions with a cost to taxpayers of $77 million — and it continues to be plagued with mechanical problems.
The new San Sebastian Bridge was built as vehicles continued to use the old bridge. The busy travel lanes of the US-1 highway were reduced in width and traffic was shifted to accommodate tandem demolition and construction.
Instead of simply diverting traffic to SR-312 during reconstruction of the Bridge of Lions, at the insistence of a very small, but very vocal, group of citizens; a parallel bridge was constructed to be used as a temporary bridge — it later had to be dismantled. It was six-years from the time the landmark lion statues were removed from the west end of the bridge until they were returned in March, 2011.
The new 4-lane bridge is built slightly higher than the previous bridge to raise it above the influence of the tides and incorporates additional safety measures including a 2-foot, 8-inch high barrier wall between the travel lanes and the sidewalk and a designated 4-foot wide bicycle lane.