Proposed design plans for the new Pensacola Bay Bridge will come out of hiding next month, giving the public the first glimpse of what the new 3-mile structure could look like.
The Florida Department of Transportation confirmed this week that the plans would be unveiled at a meeting on July 18 in Milton after a 3-member FDOT committee makes the final vote on the firm that would be responsible for building the new bay bridge.
Despite being reported in other news outlets that the public would get a glimpse of the submitted design plans by the 5 firms that are still in the running to work on the project at a meeting on July 7, FDOT spokesman Ian Satter said those plans won’t be unveiled to the public until July 18. That’s when, he said, the committee will look over the proposals and make a final decision.
Both the July 7 and July 18 meetings were originally scheduled to be held in Chipley. But those plans changed when Senator Greg Evers reached out to FDOT earlier this week and urged the state department to hold the meeting in Milton. FDOT later changed the venue location from Chipley to Milton, per his request.
Evers also urged the agency to allow the public to come and comment during both meetings and give feedback on the selection process before a final decision is made by the FDOT selection committee.
Satter said that the July 7 meeting will not be a “public information meeting”, but it will be open to the public.
“We won’t have boards set up and handouts like we do at public information meetings. What it is, basically, is it’s going to be the selection committee team opening up bid proposals that day and entering them into a spreadsheet more or less,” Satter said. “The public will be invited to attend…and there will be an opportunity at the end of the meeting for public comment.”
But the public will not get a look at what the 5 firms have submitted as far as design elements go at the July 7 meeting.
“Any sort of design documents won’t be available until a couple of weeks after that,” the District 3 FDOT spokesman said.
At the end of the July 7 meeting in Milton, the selection committee will have less than two weeks to choose a firm and come back with their selection at the July 18 meeting.
Originally, the meeting was only supposed to host the selection committee and was open to the public, just not to public comment. Eventually Evers made the push to get FDOT to host the meeting locally, and to allow public comment and participation.
The meeting announcement came only a week after the City of Gulf Breeze discussed a Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization vote at their Executive Committee meeting.
The resolution (Resolution 16-05), which was approved unanimously by the TPO board, urged FDOT to allow the public to have more say in construction projects.
The Public Participation Plan, as the TPO called it, will urge FDOT to help inform the public, include the public and involve the public in construction and design plans for future projects, including the bay bridge project.
The now public meeting will take place at the Milton Department of Transportation Operations Center Office located at 6025 Old Bagdad Highway in Milton.
The meeting is slated for 10:30 a.m.
The next step of the process is on July 18 where the Selection Committee will meet and determine the intended award of the winning bid for the construction of the bridge. Time for the Selection Committee meeting has yet to be announced. After the selection committee makes their decision at the July 18 meeting, the firm’s designs for the $500 million project will be available for public viewing.