Marathon’s most iconic landmark and tourist destination could be in even more jeopardy than imagined if figures in a recently released Monroe County study are even remotely accurate.
According to Monroe County consultant HDR Inc., it will take $71.76 million over the next 30 years to keep the Old Seven Mile Bridge leading to Pigeon Key functional.
That’s more than $53 million above an $18 million county estimate to upgrade the decking and railing on the bridge, though the HDR estimate does include repairs to the bridge’s substructure.
The county paid the Omaha, Neb.-based architectural, engineering and consulting firm $18,000 to conduct an independent review of two complicated 2012 state Department of Transportation inspection reports that outlined numerous bridge deficiencies.
The 202- and 132-page DOT reports contain dozens of photos cataloging the bridge's disrepair, but are difficult to decipher. The agency inspects the bridge twice each year in May and November.
Both HDR and state DOT officials are expected to attend Tuesday’s County Commission meeting in Marathon, at which HDR will go over its 32-page report with the board.
Much is hinging on the outcome of Tuesday’s discussion, as the county was in the midst of negotiating with DOT on the $18 million decking fix. The county was attempting to have DOT foot most of the repair bill in exchange for taking over ownership of the bridge.
In June, the commission agreed to include a $2.7 million placeholder for bridge repair in its $57 million list of future infrastructure projects. Commissioner Heather Carruthers was questioning that decision at a Monday special budget meeting in Marathon.
“Why is the bridge allocation still in capital improvement plan if we don't know what's going to happen?” she said.
“That's skin in the game; that's [DOT’s] term, not ours. It makes us credible," County Administrator Roman Gastesi replied.
But county Mayor George Neugent told the Keynoter the report could throw a wrench in negotiations. He said he’s had preliminary discussions with DOT officials including state Secretary Ananth Prasad.
“The state is going to have to play a much bigger role in a solution because the county can’t assume the liability of the substructure and the deck based on the numbers we saw,” he said.
County Public Works & Engineering Division Director Kevin Wilson said HDR and DOT officials have been “talking so they can understand what each other thinks” regarding the bridge.
Wilson wasn’t immediately optimistic about the bridge’s future, though.
“Right now it doesn’t look very positive if the numbers are anything like what HDR says,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Marathon Government Center.
KeysNet staff writer Kevin Wadlow contributed to this report.