WASHINGTON: Port Canaveral officials are trying to line up federal and state money for a new bridge over the barge canal along State Road 401. The bridge would replace an aging drawbridge there that port officials blame for both traffic tie-ups and potential safety issues on the road that leads to cruise terminals on the northern side of the port. “This is definitely a priority of mine,” Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray told port commissioners at their latest meeting. “The bottom line is our cruise numbers are strong right now, and we can’t afford to lose the support of the cruise lines and their guests because we’ve got a lousy infrastructure getting to and from the ships. It’s a multifaceted issue.”
But the fix won’t be cheap. Murray said the port’s preferred option — a new fixed-span bridge with a 65-foot clearance so that no drawbridge is needed — would cost an estimated $99.8 million. That doesn’t include the still-to-be-determined cost of modifications to the State Road 528 interchange leading to SR 401. While the port currently is spearheading efforts to seek money for the bridge replacement, it would be the state that would be responsible for doing the work on the state road, if the project moves forward.
Canaveral Port Authority Chairman Tom Weinberg said: “It’s going to be a heavy lift for this community, for this port, for all of us. We’ve got some work to do.” The problem is that, when the drawbridge is raised, traffic is backed up going to and from the port for as long as 10 minutes or more. And since the bridge has a clearance of only 25 feet, it has to be raised for even some sailboats and fishing boats. Traffic is sometimes backed up onto State Road 528, Murray said. Murray said that could happen 10 or more times on a weekend day, when cruise ship traffic is heaviest. Murray also is concerned that the aging drawbridge structures that date back to 1963 and 1972 could malfunction, cutting off access to that side of the port. In addition to its four cruise terminals, the port’s north side is home to fuel storage, cargo operations, a SpaceX complex, and U.S. Navy and Coast Guard facilities.