By Mike Bernos
Contributing Author, Roads&Bridges
As Florida’s population grows, what were once sleepy, quaint municipalities have grown into robust cities with demanding infrastructure needs.
Such is the case for the city of Port St. Lucie, a municipality of more than 170,000 people located midway between Cape Kennedy and Ft. Lauderdale on the Atlantic coast. At one time a quaint retirement community, the city has nearly doubled its population since 2000, with much of the expansion occurring west of the city’s primary waterway, the North Fork of the St. Lucie River (NFSLR).
By 2002, city officials realized the area’s exponential growth would require a third bridge to relieve the burden on the area’s other two bridges, which were already congested by increasing travel demand. The concept of a third bridge had been part of the city’s master plan since the 1980s.
However, planning bridge construction in coastal Florida is challenging because of an abundance of sensitive wetlands. This was particularly true for the city of Port St. Lucie, as the area deemed the most suitable for a new bridge was 1,000 acres of wetland ceded to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 1995 and now known as the Savannas Preserve State Park, through which the NFSLR flows.