The vehicular bridges within Palmetto Dunes were originally constructed between 1970 and 1979. Our current Bridge Replacement Program aims to methodically replace these aging structures within our 50-plus-year-old community. As we begin the new year and close out the final phase of our most recent bridge replacement project on Sea Lane, we will realize 50% completion of this capital-driven program that was introduced in 2014. This milestone allows the team to reflect on past successes and lessons learned while we redefine our approach for the remaining bridge replacement projects.
In 2012, the Association commissioned an Infrastructure Assessment to evaluate the roadways, bridges, and bulkheads within Palmetto Dunes. This assessment was driven by initiatives respective to our Reserve Study and the associated Repair & Replacement Fund. The goal was to provide the POA with a professional opinion of the subject matter infrastructure to ultimately assist with financial forecasting. The high-level assessment of the vehicular bridges that was conducted during this time spawned the need for a more in-depth study of the major structural elements.
Based on the findings of the infrastructure assessment that was conducted in 2012, the Association hired an engineering firm to conduct a comprehensive Vehicle Bridge Assessment in 2013. The scope of this evaluation was to conduct visual inspections and provide repair recommendations for the community’s 12 vehicular bridges. This report provided the Association with a “road map” for the bridges’ maintenance, repair, and replacement. The recommended “short-term” repairs were proposed to extend the useful service life of the bridge structures by approximately five years. The scope of suggested repairs included wrapping the wooden structural piles to minimize further deterioration, cross bracing the interior bents to improve structural rigidity, concrete repairs to address spalling and cracking issues, and bulkhead repairs to ensure foundational stability.
In lieu of implementing the significantly evasive short-term structural repairs, the organization opted to establish a Bridge Replacement Program, as all the bridges were nearing the end of their useful lives. Beginning in 2014, the first bridges to be replaced were those on Starboard Tack followed by Queen’s Folly,, and the two bridges on Port Tack. In 2022, we began construction on our most recent bridge replacement project on Sea Lane. Including the Sea Lane bridge, which is scheduled for completion by April 1, 2023, the POA has replaced 6 of the 12 vehicular bridges within our community.
In accordance with the Association’s directive to ensure the most cost and time-effective methodology for replacing bridges with a minimal impact on the community, in late 2022 we began the process of exploring alternative bridge designs. Per recommendations from a former board member and current Palmetto Dunes resident, the Project Management Team engaged reputable bridge construction and engineering firms, along with a bridge structure supplier, to formally evaluate a new design and construction methodology. During the first half of 2023, the organization will continue to explore the feasibility of a new bridge design, with clearly defined directives to formally engineer and cost the proposed new bridge system.
The team expects to complete the design, review, and cost-estimating process by late June of this year. During this formal review process, the organization will also evaluate other critical factors such as project duration to fully vet all aspects of the proposed new design before formalizing the path forward.
In parallel with our directive to explore a potential new bridge design, the Projects & Facilities team will begin performing in-house inspections of the remaining 6 original bridges to assess and document the current structural conditions. These self-performed inspections will closely mimic the evaluation criteria that were utilized during the formal Vehicle Bridge Assessment conducted in 2013. The data compiled from the inspections will verify the current conditions and provide a new baseline for calculating the remaining useful life of the structures. If critical concerns are noted during the inspection and assessment process, the Association may choose to engage a structural engineering firm and commission a formal assessment. Additionally, as a means of exercising best practices, our new Project Manager, Alexis Cook, is actively establishing a formal routine bridge inspection process.
As our Project Management Team navigates these critical infrastructure initiatives in the coming years, we will remain focused on delivering exceptional outcomes that are driven by the best interests of the community. We genuinely value input and recommendations from the community. If you have any questions or comments regarding our bridge replacement projects, please contact me directly.
— Jeff Starr, Director of Projects & Facilities