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Special to the Civic Association By Tim Pallesen.

Ananth Prasad

Ananth Prasad, Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation

The state plan to keep traffic flowing while the Flagler Memorial Bridge is repaired drew quick praise from the Palm Beach Civic Association. The plan to construct micro pilings at night to stabilize the existing bridge was announced by Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Amanth Prasad on Tuesday.

Bob Wright

Bob Wright, Chairman & CEO Civic Association

“This is the best outcome we could hope for,” Civic Association Chairman and CEO Bob Wright said. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”

Repair work will take six months at a cost of at least $5 million. Mr. Prasad said closings are likely only between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. while repair crews are working.

Mr. Wright said he is confident in the repair plan that Mr. Prasad presented to the Palm Beach Town Council. “I saw a lot of pride coming from DOT to make sure this will happen,” he said.

DOT engineers discovered last October that the existing bridge was sinking as piles were driven for a new $94 million bridge.  Mayor Gail Coniglio was notified by DOT on Feb. 19 that the existing bridge had to be closed. DOT engineers based in Fort Lauderdale said the bridge couldn’t be repaired.

That triggered widespread protest by Palm Beach residents and business owners. The Civic Association called for the bridge to remain open while engineers searched for a way to either repair it or build a temporary bridge.

Town Meeting DOT

Mayor Coniglio quickly persuaded DOT district secretary James Wolfe to keep the bridge open until April 1.  Then she and Civic Association director Llwyd Ecclestone each appealed to Gov. Rick Scott to find a solution that would keep traffic flowing.

Mr. Prasad acknowledged on Tuesday that Mayor Coniglio and Mr. Ecclestone were the two individuals who effectively brought pressure on Tallahassee.

DOT hired the outside engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to devise a plan to reinforce the bridge so it can remain open while the new bridge is built.  Three concrete-and-steel micro pilings will be installed to add support for each existing piling. DOT says the installation of micro pilings won’t damage the existing bridge as driving larger pilings for the new bridge did.

Following an estimated six months of night construction, four lanes of traffic will be restored on the existing bridge as the new bridge is built. Mr. Prasad repeated his presentation in West Palm Beach after speaking in Palm Beach.

He countered criticism that Palm Beach requested special treatment to keep the bridge open by saying DOT policy is to maintain traffic during all its bridge replacements. DOT doesn’t oversee the Lantana Bridge where traffic is closed.

Click the Civic Association Video Below to See Secretary Prasad Presentation at Town Council