Viewpoint: Just build the bridge

Since we moved to Gulf Breeze in 1981, our family has driven the Pensacola Bay Bridge at least four to six times a day. We’ve endured traffic jams, even the bridge being shutdown when it was hit by a barge in 1989.

Most of us who drive the Pensacola Bay Bridge daily–and their tens of thousands of us — could care less what the bridge looks like or how it lands on the Gulf Breeze and Pensacola sides. We just want a new bridge that gets us across Pensacola Bay safely and quickly.

And we would like to not pay a toll.

During my 14 years on the Gulf Breeze City Council (1992-2006), we looked a various ways to improve the traffic flow and replace the bridge. We formed committees, even had a bridge authority made up of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze citizens. Everything pointed to having to replace the structure with a toll bridge. Hurricanes intervened, and nothing ever happened.

In January 2010, Jim DeVries of the Florida Department of Transportation told members of the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization that the Pensacola Bay Bridge was “structurally deficient” and must be replaced within six years.

“The bridge is safe, there’s no problem driving on it, but it is a signal that we need to make (bridge replacement) a higher priority,” said the engineer.

Three years later, State Sen.Don Gaetz announced that he had secured over half a billion dollars to replace the bridge.

Since then, the politicians and their buddies have weighed on various design issues, including whether the the bridge will have lights underneath it.

My message: Just build it.

This community has many more pressing issues that the color, shape and lighting of the Pensacola Bay Bridge. The joy for us driving the bridge comes from spotting an occasional dolphin in the bay or looking at the Pensacola skyline to the north or spying the Pensacola Beach condos in the distance to the south. The bridge is a roadway to get us home, to work or to the beach.

Most of us just want to get to those places safely and quickly.