Dr. Philip A. Payne Bridge

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The Dr. Philip A. Payne Bridge is a 1,000-foot span of Cervantes Street (Highway 90) that crosses Bayou Texar and connects the East Hill and East Pensacola Heights neighborhoods. It replaced a previous bridge, built in 1953, that had a weight limit of only 33 tons, lacked emergency lanes, and had begun to deteriorate.

The bridge is 85 feet wide — 25 feet wider than the previous bridge — with concrete barriers separating eastbound and westbound traffic and protecting pedestrians, bicyclists and fishers. It is 20 inches taller than the previous bridge, a height determined to match that of the CSX Railroad trestle at the mouth of the bayou. It also features historic-style street lamps and stone riprap along the bayou's east and west shores.[1]

The Bayou Texar Foundation raised concerns that the riprap of the new bridge would exacerbate the bayou's environmental problems. The group pointed to about 600 tons of fill dirt, which extended the shoreline by about 300 feet on each side of the bayou, that had been added during the previous bridge's construction as a cost-saving measure. This fill dirt, they claimed, had decreased the channel's width from 1,100 feet to about 430 feet wide and diminished the bayou's natural ability to flush pollutants into the bay. Foundation president Marty Donovan asked the DOT to redesign their plans to remove the fill dirt and restore the channel to its pre-1950s width. "If you got away with it in the 1950s because we didn't know any better, why should you not be required to correct the problem in the 1990s?" he said. "We're a whole lot smarter in 1999 than we were in 1953, ecologically speaking."[2]

At the request of State Representative DeeDee Ritchie, construction was halted for five days to gather public input. DOT officials estimated that removing even half of the fill dirt would require a complete redesign, nearly doubling the project's cost and timeline,[3] and would not noticeably improve tidal flushing, as the channel's narrowest point is further south, by the railroad trestle. Construction proceeded after a $9,000 study by Tampa engineering firm Dames & Moore concluded that the new bridge would not cause any further harm to the waterway.[4]

Construction of the bridge began on January 19, 1999, and lasted about two years. PCL Civil Constructors was selected to head the $6.9 million project. Of the total budget, CarlanKillam Consulting Group received $1 million to oversee quality control.[5] It was built in phases, using temporary spans, with portions of the old bridge demolished as the new portions were constructed.

In 2006 Governor Jeb Bush signed a bill naming the bridge in honor of Dr. Philip Payne, a local dentist who championed bayou cleanup efforts for 30 years and founded the Bayou Texar Foundation. It was formally dedicated on October 7. Artist Nina Fritz designed a poster commemorating the event, and proceeds of its sales went to support the foundation.

References[edit]

  1. "Expect few delays over Bayou Texar." Pensacola News Journal, January 18, 1999.
  2. "Bayou Texar bridge expected to press on." Pensacola News Journal, January 28, 1999.
  3. "DOT official vows not to harm Bayou Texar." Pensacola News Journal, February 5, 1999.
  4. "State won't stop Texar bridge work." Pensacola News Journal, June 12, 1999.
  5. "Company to oversee bridge job." Pensacola News Journal, January 7, 1999.