By Kelli Jo Hull
For Hometown News
The Port Orange City Council unanimously agreed Feb. 4 not to pursue converting the northbound Interstate 95 bridge, which crosses Spruce Creek, to a pedestrian path that would connect the intersection at Taylor Road/Journey's End Drive to a trail in the Doris Leeper Preserve.
The bridge will no longer be used once the Florida Department of Transportation's widening project is completed in 2017 and a new bridge is built. In March 2013, the council expressed interest in building a 12-foot wide asphalt path on the bridge and the city submitted a conceptual project to the Volusia Transportation Planning Organization. The project was never designed, but this was a step toward initiating a feasibility study that would cost about $33,000. The city would pay 10 percent of that cost if it kept the project on the list.
City Planner Tim Burman said this was done "just to let FDOT know that we were interested in the bridge, in preserving it for the trail. Since that time we did a little more evaluation of the project and noticed two issues: land acquisition and also maintenance of the bridge."
According to the city, a 20-foot strip of privately owned land adjacent to 35 homes would need to be acquired in order to build the path.
City Manager Gregory Kisela said, "You've got the maintenance of the bridge, which is onerous, plus putting the proposed trail in the back of these people's homes, that's ...."
Mayor Allen Green interrupted by saying the city has had similar issues in the past that were "nightmares. You don't want that."
The issue came before the council because the FDOT wanted to know the city's intentions. The department requested an answer by July so it could move forward with demolition plans for 2015 if the city did not make a commitment.
Councilman Dennis Kennedy expressed reservations about the liability the city would have for the maintenance of the bridge saying, "That bridge probably went in in 1970."
"I need to know more," Councilman Drew Bastian said, referring to the impact acquiring the additional land needed would make.
Mayor Green said, "If you're trying to put a connector road for this overall Florida journey, this isn't the place for it."
Vice Mayor Donald Burnette said, "It's a really neat idea, because giving access to the preserve is something that we don't have easy for our residents." Concerned about the "number of residents that we would adversely affect," he said, "I think it's a great idea, but this is not the way to do it."
Concurring, Councilman Bob Ford said, "My major concern is I don't want to take backyards away from our residents."