A rendering of the pedestrian bridge project near Founders Park in Islamorada. FDOT/Contributed

Updates on the pedestrian bridge near Founders Park by the Florida Department of Transportation and the master plan at the Fills by the acting village manager highlight the Thursday, Oct. 1 virtual meeting of Islamorada Village Council.

The dais will consider two resolutions and one motion via Zoom at 5:30 p.m., but before that, council members will hear from state transportation officials regarding the progress of the $4.68 million pedestrian bridge project that’s in the design phase. With the building of a bridge, the state-funded project will also realign the path along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, widen the shoulders and construct concrete barriers. 

FDOT says completion is estimated for early 2022 for the project, which aims to improve safety by providing a pedestrian crossing over U.S. 1.

Talks about the pedestrian bridge were last heard during the discussion portion of the May 22 meeting, when councilman Chris Sante asked council to rethink the multi-million dollar project. No resolution was before council, but a council majority verbally said the project should go on. Councilman Jim Mooney said he wasn’t changing his mind. 

“I’m not going to jeopardize anyone’s life,” he said. “It’s an FDOT project. They don’t do projects that they think won’t work. With traffic lights, FDOT said no more traffic lights. It makes traffic worse.”

While the project is state-funded, costs to move electric utilities will be paid by Florida Keys Electric Cooperative shareholders. Earlier in the year, it was learned that water and electric utilities in conflict with the pedestrian bridge’s location will need to be moved. Overhead and underground facilities located on the north edge of the FDOT right-of-way next to Founders were to be relocated. Estimates back in January were anywhere from $250,000 and $300,000 for the overhead work and $700,000 to $800,000 for the underground work. 

Since the initial examination of the project, FKEC said it was able to put together a more efficient design for the transmission pole so crews don’t have to move it. With that design change, FKEC estimates the overhead cost to be closer to $150,000 and $200,000. The cost estimate associated with the underground work hasn’t changed. 

Later in the meeting, acting Village Manager Maria Bassett will lead discussion on a master plan the village is preparing to submit to FDOT to maintain the Fills, the three small islands connecting Upper Matecumbe and Lower Matecumbe Keys. 

In April, village council approved a five-year sublease with FDOT to maintain the Fills in an effort to calm the chaos, trashing and other activity witnessed during weekends and holidays. Council members and A.J. Engelmeyer, public works director, discussed fencing options and possible amenities to include in the plan during an August meeting. Three potential fencing options were examined, including cable, timber with rope and guardrail. Engelmeyer told council members that a cable barrier would be a less intrusive and visible option. It would also be less expensive than other options with an estimated cost around $322,000. 

An aerial view of the Fills in Islamorada during the Fourth of July. The area was closed off to the public during the holiday weekend as a COVID-19-protection measure. DAVID GROSS/Contributed

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