MAR- 6-02 WED 4:30 PM
I am and I am here today representing the Citizens for a Safe New Bridge
and those in our community who share our beliefs.
For the past decade, concern over what to do about the deteriorating Bridge of Lions has
been on the agenda of the Florida Department of Transportation. It has also been on the
minds of many St. Augustine residents who have strong feelings about the alternative
solutions that have been described by the Department.
As we all know, the Bridge of Lions is the primary link between downtown St. Augustine
and Anastasia Island. When the bridge was completed in 1927, the population of St.
Johns County was fewer than 20,000. It now exceeds 130,000. Annual visitation to St.
Augustine numbered no more than 75,000 in 1927. The city now welcomes more than 2
million visitors each year. In 1924n automobiles weighed little more than 1,000 pounds.
Today they are more than twice as heavy. Probably no more than several hundred cars a-
crossed the bridge oaet ay in the first ms after it was built. Today o.me 22,000 cars
cross the bridge each day. It is clearly inadequate.
Yet the bridge has become a symbol of St. Augustine to many, its red tile roofed bascule
towers and arched pier system reflecting the Mediterranean architecture of our city.
For that reason, many of our citizens organized a campaign to Save the Bridge of Lions,
when initial plans indicated that it might be necessary to replace it. This became a cause
for preservationists who feel strongly that every effort must be made to save historic
structures in St. Augustine. Likewise there are citizens who believe that the old bridge is
obsolete and should be replaced with an architecturally similar 2-lane bridge that would
be somewhat larger and considerably safer than a renovation. Either option will cost
approximately the same, about $46 million.
MAR- 6-02 WED 4:30 PP.
The bridge is owned by the Florida Department of Transportatio nweverthe
rehabilitation project would be 80% financed by the Federal Highway Administration.
These are local, state, and national issues, but the decision will have the most impact on
those of us who live and work in St. Augustine.
We understand that the Department has already announced its intention to rehabilitate the
bridge h6ur group disagrees with this decision believethat the citizens of St.
Augustine haw-not fully comprehend the multiple implications of this action. We also
believe that lobbying and political involvement have obscured the facts and resulted in a
plan that is not in the best interest of our community.
We believe that many residents fear that the replacement alternative would be a 4-lane f rJ
high-rise bridge. This is not true. A beautiful epiti theexistig bridge is not
only possible~4as been described as an option by the FDOT.
We have great respect for historic preservation and commend those in our community
who have made great efforts to promote the Bridge of Lions as a landmark worthy of
protectioJ 9 t in reality over 90% of the proposed renovation will be new construction
anyway. We will not have a renovated bridge, but rather a new bridge that duplicates the
ex g hazards and inefficiencies.
This being the case, we believe that the only practical solution is to call for a 2-lane
VYpoF Pr wrc c lep o iatioa of the Bridge of Lions, on a slightly larger scale, with safe travel lanes for
automobiles, breakdown lanes for emergencies, and a wider safer walkway for
pedestrians, joggers, wheelchairs, and cyclists. Furthermore we believe that a fair and
impartial evaluation of this community's wishes should be given paramount
consideration in determining the future of such an important aspect of our daily lives. At
this point the community's preference is mere speculation.
The results of this program will profoundly affect us for at least 50 years, and the
objective of our committee is to help inform our people and provide them with the
MAR- 6-02 W"ED 4:30 PM
mechanism to make their wishes known. There may have been various informal opinion
polls reported in the past, but the only fair measure of our city's wishes is to offer an
informed electorate the right to express itself at the ballot box in a general election.
We therefore request that the Commissioners of the City of St. Augustine adopt the
enabling ordinance to provide for a non-binding referendum to appear on the ballot of the
November 2002 general election to determine whether our citizens prefer a renovated old
bridge or a new safe bridge.
The right of the people of a community to have a voice in this question should be
unassailable, and if it is shown that the majority favor restoration, we will accept that
result graciously. If however, our citizens recognize, as we do, that there will be a new
bridge here regardless of the current choices, and express themselves as such in a
referendum, then we believe that our concerned citizens and our leaders should join
together in demanding the very best design to reflect the architectural appeal of the old
bridge, while providing a safe conveyance for the decades to come.