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FDOT rethinks decision on Brooks Bridge
What's to be done about the Brooks Bridge to Okaloosa Island?
Back in March, a tall barge slammed into the 4-year-old bridge and damaged it.
Now, the Florida Department of Transportation is meeting with state and local leaders.
They're trying to decide whether to fix it or replace it.
2013 was a dramatic year for the Brooks Bridge. Back in March it was struck by a passing barge, causing structural damage to its underside. This past weekend, an out of control motorist hit this concrete barrier, forcing its replacement. And on Friday, the Department of Transportation met with community leaders to put a timetable on the ultimate fate of the bridge.
District Secretary Tommy Barfield says the easiest solution is a new bridge.
Barfield says it's easier to get federal funding for a replacement than for a second bridge.
Ted Corcoran is CEO of the Ft. Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. He believes the DOT took the best interest of Ft. Walton Beach to mind when making their suggestion.
"They had again made a decision, in advance of this meeting, that they felt this was the best plan. They in turn were sharing their opinions with us, and looking at return from our folks in the room, 'what do you think about it?'"
"I think that they felt that this was the best plan for Ft. Walton. They did not feel an additional bridge was an option. This was a feeling of what the FDOT people felt was best for Ft. Walton."
Brian O'Neill owns a restaurant at the foot of the bridge. He says whatever the decision, the process should be open to the community.
"We just made some plans as far as expanding our operation, and we've made a five year plan. And if that five year plan is all of the sudden completely thrown for a loop.. that's some information that we definitely could've used before. And we're definitely concerned about that."
Now the Department of Transportation and State Representatives have said that if the community does not reach a consensus, no action will be taken.