Daytona Beach Veterans Memorial Bridge to get makeover

$43 million project slated to finish in 2017

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Plans are moving ahead for a $43-million makeover to the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Daytona Beach, with completion projected in 2017.

[Pics: Renderings of the new bridge]

According to Volusia County Engineer Jerry Brinton, the new bridge will be the first of its kind in Florida. He describes the design as a concrete arch bridge based on they style of bridges built in the 1920s. It'll rise to a new height of more than 65 feet, eliminating the need for a draw bridge at the crossing of the Halifax River at Orange Avenue.

The bridge is named after hotellier and veteran Tom Staed and will pay tribute to servicemen and women from all five branches of the military. A planned veterans plaza will accompany the bridge project with space to host celebrations or ceremonys. Lookout posts will also be placed along the bridge's span, adorned with plaques that tell the stories of those in the service.

Brinton says the bridge will feature wider lanes of traffic and sidewalks and concrete barriers between the traffic and pedestrians. To make the bridge more handicapped friendly, battery chargers will be installed for people who use electric-powered wheelchairs and worry the bridge's height will deplete their batteries.

Federal funding will pay for the bridge construction and design in its entirety, since the current bridge rated so low on an assessment of bridge health. It qualified for replacement, but the county maintains in its current state the bridge is still safe for cars and pedestrians to cross.

In public meetings about the new bridge's design, fishermen had complained about their inability to fish because of the new bridge's height, but those concerns have been met with plans to incorporate two fishing piers on either side of the bridge.

Structural design is still ongoing and construction is set to begin in early 2015, with a two-year timeline before completion. The bridge will be closed during the entirety of the construction process.

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