BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — This week there’s a big public kickoff to a multi-million dollar project that will replace the Sebastian Inlet Bridge.
The bridge, connecting Brevard and Indian River counties, was rated structurally deficient in a 2018 evaluation following Hurricane Florence.
“What that means is that it’s not unsafe at this time, but it means the department has to start thinking about some repair or construction,” said Binod Basnet, a project manager with FDOT.
Spanning over the inlet, the 1,548 foot long bridge was built in 1964.
But years of salt water and hurricanes have taken their toll on the A1A bridge.
Florida Department of Transportation bridge policy dictates that structurally deficient bridges should be replaced within 6 years.
“This inlet is everything,” said Brandon Campbell, a fishing captain for Salt & Savagery Adventure Charters. “That bridge is crucial — I use it to get over the bridge to come launch my boat, my clients use it.”
Apparently cyclists use it too, even though there’s no bike lane or sidewalk.
A 2019 FDOT study found 231 bicyclists crossed the bridge over a three day period.
FDOT plans to make the new bridge accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Constructing the bridge will be a large undertaking, and detouring traffic would require an extra 40 miles from Melbourne to Vero Beach.
For boaters, bridge replacement could also limit access to the ocean.
“It would be absolutely detrimental to a lot of people if they would shut that bridge down where you couldn’t go under it,” said Campbell.
Right now FDOT is still getting public input, and a decision has not been made on whether the old bridge will be kept open during construction on the new one.
FDOT hopes to start construction on the new bridge by the winter of 2026, despite that 6 year policy.
By then we’ll have a better idea on the plans and what will stay open and what will have to be closed during construction.