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County set to fix Parker Bridge

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Staff Writer
For years Parker Bridge in southeastern Escambia County has been a thorn in the side of county officials and residents. Now, construction is set to begin on one of the the largest, and most expensive, road or bridge projects in recent memory.
Parker Bridge, which runs over the Conecuh River on County Road 4 in eastern Escambia County, has been damaged severely over the years due to flooding. After years of deterioration, a flood in 1998 caused severe damage that forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare that it was more feasible to fix the bridge than repair it.
Currently, the bridge is passable but is in very bad condition. The bridge is often closed causing residents and other travelers of CR 4 to take about a 20-mile detour around the bridge. School buses are also affected during these times.
County officials are now eagerly awaiting Feb. 22, which is the date that bids will be open to award the project to a bridge-building company.
Commission Chairman Larry White said rebuilding Parker Bridge is the largest project facing the county and that all the commissioners will be glad to see the work begin.
While the bridge has been deteriorating over the years, the cost of replacing the two-lane, 900-foot structure has always exceeded the county's budget. In fact, White said the cost of replacing the bridge is twice the amount of the county's road and bridge annual budget.
In all, county officials are estimating the project to cost about $7 million. With the exception of some preliminary engineering work, possible right-of-way acquisition and possible wetlands mitigation costs, FEMA and the Alabama Department of Transportation are combining funds to pay for the actual construction costs.
Even the engineering costs were cut to a large extent. The county paid $60,000 for the engineering reports. The total cost of the reports was $300,000.
As for the construction, FEMA is expected to pay approximately $3.3 million and ADOT will pay the remaining balance.
The bridge will be constructed slightly north of its current location, which means the county will have to realign CR 4. That may require some costs in right-of-way acquisition.
There may also be costs involved in preserving wetlands. The state requires that any wetlands area disturbed must be replaced.
According to County Engineer John Downing, the new bridge will extend 996 feet and should not be affected by any common flooding.
Downing said the construction of the bridge will include the main span bridge of 996 feet. There will also be a 400-foot relief structure that will carry flood water as well as two, 200-foot relief structures.
County Road 4, and Parker Bridge, is a key route in Escambia County. It carries a large portion of the traffic that travels to Escambia from Covington, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties.
White said the construction of the new bridge is a result of many hours of work by a large number of people.
He said State Representative Skippy White played a key role in securing funds from ADOT.