Fishermen, campers marring, eroding SR 528 causeways
State labels area "no man's land"
PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Transportation officials label the State Road 528 corridor along the Indian and Banana rivers "no man's land" of unregulated recreation and environmental damage.
Local 6 News partner Florida Today reports, fishermen pull trucks on and off the highway in random fashion. Waders trample seagrass beds. Campers in recreational vehicles dump raw sewage directly into the lagoon.
And spectators cram the causeways for rocket launches, darting across the pavement and parking too close to traffic.
Later this year, Florida Department of Transportation engineers will begin design work to widen SR 528 from four to six lanes between Interstate 95 and Port Canaveral. This $912 million project will accommodate future cargo freight and cruise passenger traffic.
Thursday, the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization formally lobbied FDOT to incorporate recreational upgrades — such as parking areas, fishing and shrimping sites, and a trail linking the mainland with the beaches — in the widening project.
"It's absolutely overdue. That area is a mess," Tony Sasso, executive director of Keep Brevard Beautiful, told the TPO board.
"It's an environmental issue. It's a safety issue. And quite honestly, it's an economic issue. It's the gateway to our beaches."
Sasso said visitors from Orlando are greeted by "big Dumpsters in the middle of a field." and shoreline erosion poses an extensive problem, he said.
Construction on the SR 528 widening project is tentatively scheduled to start in 2022, said Leigh Holt, a TPO program manager. Design engineering is budgeted at $16.1 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Calling Brevard County causeways "quality-of-life assets," TPO Executive Director Bob Kamm said these shorelines should be managed with safeguards to protect the environment while preserving waterfront access for fishermen, windsurfers and others.
"We've all driven 528. You know what it's like, particularly up on the east end on the Banana River side. It's no man's land. People are camping overnight for several days with no sanitation facilities," Kamm said.
Brevard County Commissioner Jim Barfield said he strongly supports recreational upgrades, fearing for the safety of rocket spectators.
"Every launch, it's packed along there. People run across the road. And every time I go through there, it scares me to death to think what would happen if a car goes off the road here. It'd wipe out a family," Barfield said.
Rockledge City Councilman Pat O'Neill retired in 2009 after a 33-year career with the Florida Highway Patrol.
"The problem with recreational vehicles dumping raw sewage in there was a frequent concern. The highway patrol got calls on it once a week, where somebody was camping — and their outlet hose just ran into the river," O'Neill said.
The proposed SR 528 trail may link with the north-south East Coast Greenway, which may someday stretch 2,900 miles from Calais, Maine, to Key West.
The Port Canaveral Authority will consider a similar SR 528 causeway resolution March 18.
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