By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
Volusia County is looking to replace the Veterans Memorial Bridge and has started getting input from residents.
The first monthly meeting on the new bridge that connects Orange Avenue and Silver Beach Avenue was at the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce at 126 E. Orange Ave. on June 4.
"This is a community project and we are trying to make sure that all elements of the community are represented," County Councilman Joshua Wagner said.
The Veteran's Memorial Bridge is officially known as the Tom Staed Veterans Memorial Bridge. The bridge connects City Island to the Peninsula/Beachside and goes over the Halifax River.
"Some people call it the Orange Avenue bridge and others the Silver Beach bridge. I think that once it's done it will be known as the Veterans Memorial Bridge," Councilman Wagner said.
The structure was built in 1947 and is now obsolete.
"This is one of our oldest bridges and it's close to failure. When it breaks down we have to go out and get custom parts, which are very expensive. It's only a matter of time when we won't be able to drive over it," Wagner said.
The plan is to demolish the bridge and replace it with a new one by 2016.
"We will build a completely new bridge. We have a few years in the planning phases and then a few years with the actual construction," Councilman Wagner said.
There are funds available for the project. The county already has secured $48 million in federal funds.
"It's all federally funded. We got the funding a few years ago. Without the federal funding we couldn't do it. I don't think that we will spend the entire amount," Councilman Wagner said.
There are discussions to build an arch style bridge with underpasses for fishing and a veterans' memorial park adjacent to the bridge. There are also ideas of putting plaques commemorating the armed forces, military units and local veterans.
The bridge project is separate from the city of Daytona Beach's Orange Avenue Redevelopment Plan.
Residents that attended the meeting are excited about the possibilities of the new bridge.
"I think that the ideas surrounding this project are pretty good. I think that it's too bad that the plaques aren't in Braille like at theme parks. It will also be nice to have people put their family members' who served plaques there," Scott Larson said.
"As for the park, I like the idea of people putting their family member names on plaques. Maybe at the top of the bridge let's put their service unit names," David Farris said.
"I like the idea of using the arch design and the educational standpoint. I just would like to see the five branches of the armed services logos up in color and being distinctive," David Sewell said.
But not all were pleased with what they saw and heard at the meeting.
"I am disappointed. I haven't heard why this is a good project yet. Why do we need this?" July Chive asked.