1000 Friends of Florida

Final Report for the Bridge Symposium Project

Executive Summary

Over the next 50 years, Florida will be faced with the need to repair and replace many bridges throughout the state. Bridge replacement often becomes a contentious issue, as local residents sometimes prefer to maintain their existing bridge, or seek the replacement with design alternatives that differ significantly in both cost and effectiveness. Areas of contention vary and may involve numerous stakeholders such as: local citizens; the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); the United States Coast Guard; inland navigation districts; metropolitan planning councils (MPOs); the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT); the Florida Department of State’s (FDOS) Division of Historical Resources; local historical societies; and, local governments. As a result some projects may be drawn out for years, costing all concerned parties considerable time and money to arrive at solutions

Recognizing that problems exist, and with a desire to work toward minimizing aggravations and costs for all stakeholders, 1000 Friends of Florida was contracted by several of the stakeholders to plan and conduct a one-and-a-half day bridge replacement/rehabilitation symposium. The symposium sponsors represented a partnership consisting of the: FDOT; FDOS; MPOAC; National Trust for Historic Preservation; and, Mr. Tim Jackson from the transportation planning and engineering firm of Glatting, Jackson, Kercher, Anglin, Lopez & Rinehart, Inc.

The Bridge Symposium looked at issues associated with the bridge decisions, particularly those associated with the construction of high profile bridges, including the rehabilitation or replacement of those with a historical component, which cross coastal navigable waters. The symposium’s goal was to work toward formulating suggestions for specific policy and/or procedural recommendations to correct issues identified as sticking points in the current bridge rehabilitation and replacement process.

To better define and refine specific issues of importance prior to the symposium, a survey was developed and mailed out to a variety of interests and stakeholders. Additionally, background research was performed regarding existing policies and procedures that guide bridge replacement and rehabilitation in Florida. From this research a pre-meeting informational package was developed and mailed to symposium participants. Based on the pre-meeting survey and discussions with the symposium sponsors and the development of the pre-meeting informational package, four major issue areas evolved.

1.) COMMUNITY INPUT AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE. How can community input for bridge projects/improvements be enhanced in terms of quality and timing? How can aesthetics and historic significance be better incorporated into the overall review process?

2.) LONG-RANGE PLANNING. How can the long-range planning process for identifying the need for bridge work and for determining which bridge projects/improvements are to be funded be improved and better coordinated with the various agencies?

3.) DESIGN AND COORDINATION. How can the bridge design process for bridge projects/ improvements be improved and better coordinated with the various public agencies and the public?

4.) EVALUATING BRIDGE ALTERNATIVES. How can the range of bridge alternatives and the measures and procedures used to evaluate those alternatives be improved and enhanced in the bridge replacement/rehabilitation process?

On the 4th and 5th of November, 1999 the symposium was held in Orlando, Florida. Organizationally, the symposium was divided into two segments, the first being informational with several speaker presentations and a panel discussion on the bridge replacement/rehabilitation process as it presently exists. The second segment consisted of facilitated work sessions aimed at using the talents and diverse backgrounds of the symposium participants. In these sessions, The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium (a group trained in handling facilitated workshops) and the staff of 1000 Friends of Florida facilitated four different focus groups divided along the lines of the identified issues. From these sessions, many specific recommendations were generated which were eventually distilled down through a process of consensus and ranking into eleven propositions. The eleven represent consensus propositions a majority would support. A recurrent theme in a number of the propositions is the need for the FDOT, Coast Guard and the MPOs to involve and inform all stakeholders as early as possible in the planning and PD&E processes about all available options and limitations without deference toward any particular alternative. Further, information/data dealing with environmental or system relative constraints (e.g., historical, navigation, natural or community aspects) must be researched and presented early-on in the process and differences resolved prior to decisions being made favoring any particular design alternative.

Community Input and Historic Significance

Proposition 1. The historic preservation/management plan should be more available to the public. It should contain an inventory of historic bridges that is developed by FDOT, FDOS and, the local communities. The plan and the list should be revised and distributed periodically.

Proposition 2. The public should be informed of potential construction impacts at the appropriate time and before the final commitment.

Long-range Planning

Proposition 3. Identify constrained bridges (based on community, historical, environmental limitations or values) for special consideration of repair/rehabilitation as an alternative to replacement. Existing surveys/inventories would be one source of information for identifying constrained bridges. For such constrained bridges, develop a rating system that focuses on preservation through repair/rehabilitation.

Bridge Design and Coordination

Proposition 4. FDOT and MPOs should inform communities as early as possible in the PD&E process about opportunities for aesthetic design details compatible with community character and the possibility of cost-sharing and joint maintenance agreements and the availability of inventories that can assist in the process. FDOT should encourage those receiving advance notification to provide information to potential affected interests and stakeholders.

Proposition 5. FDOT should use appropriate visual communication tools early, and throughout the design process to both inform and engage the public in bridge design decisions.

Proposition 6. During the course of the bridge review process, especially on controversial bridge projects, FDOT should seek to provide specific feedback to the public detailing how the Department responded to various concerns expressed in the public workshop process in terms of revision to the draft report, etc. This may require additional resources for providing this level of feedback.

Proposition 7. The Coast Guard should get involved early-on in the PD&E process to provide important input to others and to work with other agencies and the public to approach flexibly the bridge review process as one entity seeking substantial compliance with various regulations. FDOT and the Coast Guard should work to bring channel and geometric considerations more clearly into the bridge PD&E and design process.

Proposition 8. Those organizations and agencies collecting and maintaining key inventories (e.g., Coast Guard regarding bridges, channels design criteria currents, etc., Preservation Community regarding bridges worthy of attention due to historic value) should work to develop a coordinated and accessible data base for use in bridge review efforts.

Evaluating Alternatives

Proposition 9. Work early on with the Coast Guard to run alternatives and get affirmations or negations of germane variables relative to the alternatives being presented. Also work with the Coast Guard to develop a statewide boating survey format.

Proposition 10. Both short and long range planning processes must clearly define and state the need for project.

Proposition 11. At initiation of the PD&E there needs to be an inter-agency and public meeting to discuss criteria and all requirements for the full range of alternatives and evaluation measures to be used.

As a follow-up, symposium sponsors along with the Coast Guard (an active Symposium participant but not a sponsor) have agreed to move forward to work toward implementing the suggested policy or procedural recommendations to correct issues identified as sticking points in the current bridge rehabilitation and replacement process.

Mr. William Nickas, P.E. – State Structures Design Engineer; Mr. Steve Moore, P.E. – FDOT District Four Project Development & Environmental Management Engineer; Captain Greg Shapley – U.S. Coast Guard – District 7, Miami; Ms. Laura Kammerer, Florida Department of State – Bureau of Historic Preservation; Mr. Mike Guy – Staff Director, Sarasota/Manatee MPO; and, Mr. George Hadley from the Federal Highway Administration. (picture below)

 

 

Introduction to the Issues

Over the next 50 years, Florida will be faced with the need to repair and replace many bridges throughout the state. Bridge replacement often becomes a contentious issue, as local residents sometimes prefer to maintain their existing bridge, or seek the replacement with design alternatives that vary significantly in both cost and effectiveness. Areas of contention vary and may involve numerous stakeholders such as local citizens and interests within a community, the Coast Guard, FHWA, inland navigation districts, MPOs, FDOT, local governments and other citizen-based groups. Though not exhaustive, the list below indicates some of the issues and associated stakeholders in bridge replacement/rehabilitation projects:

  • Concerns over the aesthetic impacts of a fixed span bridge (local government and citizens);
  • Impacts of proposed high level bridges to existing communities at either end of the proposed bridge’s landing area (local government and citizens);
  • Replacement of bridges of recognized local/state/national historic significance (local, state and national historic community, local government and citizens);
  • Protection of channel navigation attributes (Coast Guard and inland navigation districts, boating interests);
  • The level of coordination and consistency with the local government’s comprehensive plan and land use policies (local governments and citizens);
  • Public safety issues (FDOT, Coast Guard, FHWA, local governments, etc.);
  • A desire for greater citizen input into the decision-making process (local government and citizens); and,
  • Wise and equitable use of state/federal bridge building funds to meet statewide bridge rehabilitation and replacement needs (FDOT, FHWA).

As a result of differences in perspective and the needs between groups, some projects are drawn out for years, costing all concerned parties considerable time and money to arrive at solutions.

Further, it is important to note that the FDOT and the Coast Guard have specific regional and statewide transportation concerns as a part of their missions. From their perspectives, bridge replacement and rehabilitation must often focus on factors such as efficient movement of vehicular and/or boat traffic along regional and statewide transportation networks, and maximizing the use of limited public monies for both the construction and long-term operation and maintenance of a bridge. Additionally, in response to encouragement from existing federal regulations on bridge rehabilitation and replacement, the FDOT may often move in the direction of replacing older low level movable bridges with fixed spans, high level bridges (see FHWA, 23CFR, Section 650.809).

At the local level, these circumstances have drawn opposition and even litigation because the focus of concern there is on community enhancement, logical networking and integration of local streets and neighborhoods and, the preservation of historic and aesthetic community features. From their perspective, though part of a larger overall transportation network, each bridge is local by nature and must fit within existing parameters of the community’s historic design and general aesthetic character.

Given the weighing of multiple factors, the multiple stakeholders and the real need to eventually either repair or replace each bridge, a balanced and equitable process of alternative analyses and decision-making must be made available. To work toward such a balanced and equitable process the FDOT, the FDOS, the MPOAC and the National Trust for Historic Preservation contracted with 1000 Friends of Florida to plan and conduct a bridge replacement/rehabilitation symposium.

To be successful, The effort to plan and hold this symposium would have to bring together a diverse group of interests involved in bridge replacement and rehabilitation, examine how decisions are presently made an suggest improvements to the process where sticking points have been identified. The Bridge Symposium would look at issues associated with the bridge decisions, particularly those associated with the construction of high profile bridges, including the rehabilitation or replacement of those with a historical component, which cross coastal navigable waters.

The goal of the symposium was to work toward formulating suggestions for specific policy or procedural recommendations to correct issues identified as sticking points in the current bridge rehabilitation and replacement process.

 

Methodology

A. Preliminary Identification Issues and Likely Participants
To identify likely symposium participants, 1000 Friends held a series of meetings with the various symposium sponsors to develop an outline of the issues and issue stakeholders. In addition, upon contact with these stakeholders and follow-up interviews and correspondence, other important interests were identified and subsequentially contacted. Due to meeting space limitations and an aim of keeping the symposium manageably productive, the number of participants was kept to around 50 to 60 persons.

B. Development of Pre-meeting Survey
To better define and refine specific issues of importance prior to the symposium, a pre-meeting survey was developed and mailed out to a variety of interests and stakeholders. The survey was developed with the input and advice of the symposium sponsors and interviews and correspondence with others identified as likely participants. Many important issues and personal insights regarding the bridge replacement and rehabilitation process were derived from the survey responses and various follow-up interviews with the likely symposium participants.

C. Research & Development of Bridge Processes Notebook
A pre-meeting informational package was developed which involved researching the existing policy and procedures that guide bridge replacement and rehabilitation in Florida and then organizing and presenting this research in an understandable format. These informational packages were sent to all identified participants a week prior to the symposium so that everyone would have a chance to develop a common understanding of the existing policies and procedures that govern bridge development and rehabilitation processes.

D. Key Issue Identification
Prior to the symposium, four major issue areas and related key questions evolved based on: results from the survey, discussions with the symposium sponsors and interviews with potential participants and speakers; and, from the research and development of the pre-meeting informational package. The four areas and related key questions are:

COMMUNITY INPUT AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE. How can community input for bridge projects/improvements be enhanced in terms of quality and timing? How can aesthetics and historic significance be better incorporated into the overall review process?

LONG-RANGE PLANNING. How can the long range planning process for identifying the need for bridge work and for determining which bridge projects/improvements are to be funded be improved and better coordinated with the various agencies?

EVALUATING BRIDGE ALTERNATIVES. How can the range of bridge alternatives and the measures and procedures used to evaluate those alternatives be improved and enhanced in the bridge replacement/rehabilitation process?

DESIGN AND COORDINATION. How can the bridge design process for bridge projects/improvements be improved and better coordinated with the various public
agencies and the public?

E. The Symposium
The goal of the symposium, as previous stated, was to identify policy or procedural sticking points in the current bridge rehabilitation and replacement process and use the assembled symposium participants and their differing backgrounds and experiences to recommend possible improvements or solutions. Organizationally, the symposium was divided into two segments, the first being informational with several speakers presenting and a panel discussion on the bridge replacement/rehabilitation process as it presently exists. The second segment concentrated on facilitated work sessions aimed at using the talents and diverse backgrounds of the symposium participants. In these facilitated sessions, The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium and staff of 1000 Friends of Florida facilitated the different focus groups covering the identified issues. The focus groups identified problems or sticking point within the scope of their issue area, and then suggested specific solutions. Though on a tight time schedule, each focus group reviewed the issue and associated key question, added additional ones if necessary, and debated and sought consensus on propositions responding to the issues and questions.

By the end of the second day, each focus group succeeded in hammering out a variety of propositions for improvements to the existing process (see Appendix 2 – Focus Group Reports).

F. Arriving at Final Consensus Propositions
The members of all the focus groups then reconvened and together, through a process of consensus and ranking, selected specific propositions they deemed most workable overall. From the varied propositions individually drafted and discussed by the four focus groups, eleven were eventually selected in the reconvened session. By a show of hands, participants either: a.) whole-heartedly supported the proposition (score of 3); b.) could live with it, but might have suggestions for improvement (score of 2); or, c.) just could not accept the proposition as stated (score of 1).

Propositions included in the final group either had no scores of “1” (i.e., no participants opposed it) or, have an overall 70% or greater approval score from the entire group of participants (i.e., those opposed or those with questions about a particular proposition did not account to more than 30% of the participants raising their hands).

G. Final Consensus Propositions
Community Input and Historic Significance

Proposition 1. The historic preservation/management plan should be more available to the public. It should contain an inventory of historic bridges that is developed by FDOT, FDOS and, the local communities. The plan and the list should be revised and distributed periodically.

Proposition 2. The public should be informed of potential construction impacts at the appropriate time and before the final commitment.

Long-range Planning

Proposition 3. Identify constrained bridges (based on community, historical, environmental limitations or values) for special consideration of repair/rehabilitation as an alternative to replacement. Existing surveys/inventories would be one source of information for identifying constrained bridges. For such constrained bridges, develop a rating system that focuses on preservation through repair/rehabilitation.

Bridge Design and Coordination

Proposition 4. FDOT and MPOs should inform communities as early as possible in the PD&E process about opportunities for aesthetic design details compatible with community character and the possibility of cost-sharing and joint maintenance agreements and the availability of inventories that can assist in the process. FDOT should encourage those receiving advance notification to provide information to potential affected interests and stakeholders.

Proposition 5. FDOT should use appropriate visual communication tools early, and throughout the design process to both inform and engage the public in bridge design decisions.

Proposition 6. During the course of the bridge review process, especially on controversial bridge projects, FDOT should seek to provide specific feedback to the public detailing how the Department responded to various concerns expressed in the public workshop process in terms of revision to the draft report, etc. This may require additional resources for providing this level of feedback.

Proposition 7. The Coast Guard should get involved early-on in the PD&E process to provide important input to others and to work with other agencies and the public to approach flexibly the bridge review process as one entity seeking substantial compliance with various regulations. FDOT and the Coast Guard should work to bring channel and geometric considerations more clearly into the bridge PD&E and design process.

Proposition 8. Those organizations and agencies collecting and maintaining key inventories (e.g., Coast Guard regarding bridges, channels design criteria currents, etc., Preservation Community regarding bridges worthy of attention due to historic value) should work to develop a coordinated and accessible data base for use in bridge review efforts.

Evaluating Alternatives

Proposition 9. Work early on with the Coast Guard to run alternatives and get affirmations or negations of germane variables relative to the alternatives being presented. Also work with the Coast Guard to develop a statewide boating survey format.

Proposition 10. Both short and long range planning processes must clearly define and state the need for project.

Proposition 11. At initiation of the PD&E there needs to be an inter-agency and public meeting to discuss criteria and all requirements for the full range of alternatives and evaluation measures to be used.

Summary and Next Steps

Parting Statements by Symposium Sponsors

As a follow-up to the symposium, sponsors along with the Coast Guard (an active Symposium participant but not a sponsor) have agreed to move forward to work toward implementing the suggested policy or procedural recommendations to correct issues identified as sticking points in the current bridge rehabilitation and replacement process. For those moving forward to pursue follow-up actions it is important not to overlook each proposition offered by the four focus groups (including those not receiving consensus support). All the suggested propositions likely contain elements of needed procedural or policy changes. As noted in the executive summary, there were recurrent themes in a number of the propositions such as the need for the FDOT, Coast Guard and the MPOs to involve and inform all stakeholders as early as possible in the planning and PD&E processes about all available options and limitations without deference toward any particular alternative. Further, information/data dealing with environmental or system relative constraints (e.g., historical, navigation, natural or community aspects) must be researched and presented early-on in the process and differences resolved prior to decisions being made favoring any particular design alternative.

At the end of the symposium each of the sponsors was given a brief opportunity to indicate what the next step may be, now that symposium has culled-out particular issue areas and offered specific propositions for action. After the parting comments from the symposium sponsors there are provided four sections covering each focus group’s efforts and recommended suggestions.

Ken Morefield, FDOT, Assistant Secretary to Policy & Planning

At the end of the Bridge Symposium, Assistant Secretary Ken Morefield thanked all the participants for their participation, saying that the process has been excellent effort to get improvement suggestions. Further Mr. Morefield offered the following points:

• FDOT likes input from the public and stakeholders;
• The more input the more chance FDOT’s actions will be accepted by the public;
• If you are affected or interested in a bridge project, the more FDOT needs to hear from you to allow for good opportunities for dissemination and exchange of information.

As to the results of the Symposium, FDOT will take these improvements and work with the district offices. These offices are decentralized by statute, not policy, but district level
policies and procedures are developed in a coordinated fashion by the Central Tallahassee office. The PD& E and State Structures and Design Offices are located there. Nevertheless, FDOT depends on you to make sure what they are doing is correct for projects. Mr. Morefield noted, “keep on us on track to make sure we don’t miss a step or two.” It may be a good idea to come back in a year and let people know what we have done as some changes may take a year to develop and implement.

Laura Kammerer, Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources

Thanks to all for engaging in this symposium. Many of you took two days out of your normal life to come and provide input. The State Preservation Office needs to continue to educate preservation the community about its role in process and work with FDOT on the inventory and management plan for historic bridges

From this symposium I hope you take back to your community the good ideas and try to implement changes in communities on an individual basis.

Howard Glassman, Metropolitan Planning Advisory Council (MPOAC)

Mr. Glassman thanked the state’s twenty-five MPOs for helping to co-sponsor the symposium through the MPOAC. 1000 Friends approached the MPOAC and they agreed with the goal and objectives for having such a symposium. At an upcoming MPOAC meeting of MPO Staff Directors, 1000 Friends of Florida has agreed to join the meeting to provide a summary of the Symposium outcomes and the resultant suggestions for future actions. Issues directly affecting MPOs will be addressed.

Daniel Carey- National Trust For Historic Preservation (NTHP)

The interest and focus of the symposium was very helpful, (for the broader issues of bridge replacement/rehabilitation) rather than fighting individual fires. Though the symposium was limited in terms of resources and time it was looking to affect policy and procedures.

The Southern Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Charleston sees this as a great opportunity to affect more than a single project. Mr. Carey indicated that he would take the ideas developed from the symposium to other regional offices to find groups within their states willing to set up something similar.

Regarding their national publications, Mr. Carey felt that there should be a concerted effort to get a summary of the meeting into Forum, the National Trust’s journal for professionals in the field of historic preservation. Mr. Carey also noted that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has lots of Florida representation.

Finally, Mr. Charles Pattison, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Florida and Mr. Bob Jones, Executive Director of The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium each offered their thanks to the participants for their time and efforts.

 

The final Report has been completed by 1000 Friends of Florida and the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium. For more information please contact 1000 Friends of Florida at (850) 222-6277.

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