After patiently enduring five years of construction, motorists can expect to begin driving over the new Southern Boulevard Bridge sometime this summer, the Florida Department of Transportation recently said.
Completion of all work associated with the $97 million bridge replacement is now anticipated for this fall, according to Angel Streeter Gardner, project spokeswoman.
The news represents a slight delay since December, when the DOT said it expected the new bridge to open to traffic this spring and work to be completed in the summer.
The project is taking longer to complete because the contractor, Johnson Bros. Corp., has faced delays in acquiring materials for some elements of the bridge, Gardner said.
Earlier, completion was projected for the summer of 2021. But there was a problem with the mechanism that operates the movable spans of the new drawbridge linking Palm Beach and West Palm Beach over the Lake Worth Lagoon, Gardner said in December. She noted at the time that the procurement period for materials had lengthened.
Workers are now making final adjustments to the bridge’s mechanical components, installing traffic and pedestrian railing, working on a bridge tender house and installing the fender system in the channel and the traffic signal mast arms.
Activities that are pending and necessary before shifting traffic from the temporary bridge to the new bridge include: Installing the first layer of asphalt and temporary striping, completing street light installation, and final balance and inspection, Gardner said.
Once the new bridge is open, Flagler Drive north of Southern Boulevard will be temporarily closed as the road is reconstructed to meet the new bridge. Final paving and striping throughout the project corridor will occur. The temporary bridge will be demolished.
“The Southern Boulevard Bridge will be a signature bridge that residents will be able to admire and enjoy, both in terms of its style and the new pedestrian and bike facilities, which were lacking on the old bridge,” Gardner said.
Since construction began in April 2017, the cost of the project has been revised upward by $4 million to $97 million.
In addition to the new drawbridge, the project includes a new tide relief bridge, which is the low-level fixed bridge on the Palm Beach side of the lagoon. The new drawbridge and tide relief bridge will each carry one lane of traffic in each direction.
Both bridges will have six-foot-wide sidewalks in each direction and 10-foot-wide paved shoulders with seven-foot-wide bicycle lanes.
The drawbridge will have a clearance of 21 feet, four feet taller than the old bridge. The navigable channel is being widened to 125 feet.
New construction features include the bridge tender house, a quieter bridge deck, pedestrian overlooks and decorative lighting.
Built in the 1950s, the Southern Boulevard Bridge was the last of three spans connecting West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. The new Flagler Memorial Bridge was completed in 2017 and the current Royal Park Bridge was completed in 2005.
During her state-of-the-town remarks at the Palm Beach Civic Association’s Annual Meeting at the Flagler Museum on April 11, Mayor Danielle Moore pointed to the much-anticipated Southern Boulevard Bridge opening as a highlight of 2022.
“Isn’t it nice to know that, finally, after what seems like a decade, the Southern Boulevard Bridge is about to be finished,” Moore said. “I think all residents will be grateful for that. I have to say I didn’t know it took so long to build a bridge.”