Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park) received a commitment from Florida Department of Transportation to move the Bithlo Bridge to top of the priority list and to provide a report on temporary solutions and how to start the expansion of Highway 50 to State Highway 520, including Bithlo bridge, from a long-term project to a project that will start immediately after phase one is complete.
Congressman Mica first learned of the bridge issues, and other problems in Bithlo, after touring the community on May 4 with Tim McKinney, executive director of United Global Outreach, a Bithlo-based non-profit focused on improving the area.
On May 17, Mica met with Florida DOT secretary Ananth Prasad in Washington. At the meeting, Micaasked Prasad to move the widening to the top of their priority list and requested they move resources from any stalled state transportation projects to extend the vital east-west highway widening, not ending the six lane road and have traffic funneling into a narrow and unsafe bridge. Mica secured assurances of assistance on the project by Prasad.Today's meeting with District Secretary Noranne Downs culminated the discussion and Downs again assured this is a priority for the state and promised the report on how to complete the project quickly.
After the meeting with Downs, Mica walked a portion of the bridge with residents and experienced the very real danger facing residents of east Orange County as they cross the only pedestrian access from the east into Orange County.
"I'm a grown man and I felt terror as I started walking across the bridge," Mica said. " There's only 12 inches of space between the traffic and the barrier. People's lives are in danger and we must develop an immediate solution to this death trap."
In response to Mica's efforts, the study will determine the costs and the timeline to include the bridge in a scheduled expansion of U.S. Hwy 50. The expansion, slated to start in 2013 and completed a year and a half later, ends approximately 100 yards west of the bridge.
"Florida DOT has been extremely responsive since I first met with the secretary," Mica said. "They understand that this is not just a transportation project, it is an issue of saving someone's life.
"For years, this area has been neglected," Mica continued. "After touring the area and walking just a few feet on the bridge, seeing the very real problems facing east Orange County, this area will not be neglected anymore."