Florida Builds New Intracoastal Bridge

The project overcame both political and environmental challenges to become an award-winning example of transportation infrastructure

By Elizabeth Delehanty

Photography by RS&H

At the most recent Design-Build Conference & Expo, the Design-Build Institute of America announced winners of Excellence Awards, including the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Martin County, Fla., which won the National Award of Excellence in the Transportation category. The awards recognize projects and teams from across the country that demonstrate design-build best practices and, according to the DBIA website, “resulted in highly successful projects that achieved best value while meeting design and construction quality, cost and schedule goals.”

Ben Lehr, vice president at RS&H and senior bridge designer for the project, said that the design-build team’s exceptional perseverance in working together with the state of Florida and Martin County to overcome early opposition is what sets this project apart. “It took a lot of stakeholder coordination to transform what was once regarded as the worst usage of American Recovery and Reconstruction Act stimulus dollars in the nation into a project the community really loves,” said Lehr.

To generate support for the bridge, Lehr and his team created realistic renderings and 3D animations of the project corridor and presented the visuals at a public meeting attended by over 200 residents. “There was opposition to the project during the planning and design phases and the 3D models were used to illustrate the project’s amenities and aesthetics, as well as show the layout of the roadway, landscaping, ponds, and height of the bridge to allow residents to see how the finished product integrated with and enhanced their communities.” Lehr said these elements were instrumental in building support for the project and fighting the federal injunctions and NEPA challenges faced by the team.

Gaining the approval of Martin county residents was a top priority for the team, and Lehr said much of the inspiration for the aesthetics of the project were drawn from community involvement. “We came up with wall panels and handrails, and light poles that built upon the community’s existing visions but also strived for each enhancement to be a functional component of the bridge. The handrails are high enough to where residents can safely ride their bikes over the bridge. The light poles are aesthetically pleasing but can also withstand hurricane-force winds,” said Lehr. “The design‐build team worked tirelessly to ensure the new facility was integrated with the community and viewed as a desirable piece of infrastructure for years to come,” he added.

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