Lack of funds drives up cost of Lake Co. bridge project



TAVARES, Fla. - A public hearing Tuesday will give Lake County drivers a look at what it will take to replace a busy bridge.

State transportation officials said they have known they needed to tear down the State Road 19 Bridge over Little Lake Harris in Howey-in-the-Hills for two years.

The bridge is a little over 1.5 miles long.

The Florida Department of Transportation wants to spend $35 million to tear it down and rebuild it.

"I think it should be looked at, replaced if necessary and let's get in with the modern time," said Lake County resident Jerry Muras.

Muras said he has lived in the county for 27 years. He said the busy bridge has seen better days.

"I don't have any idea what bridges cost, but whatever it costs I think they should do it," said Muras.

WFTV has learned that replacing the bridge is just the beginning of a major undertaking.
FDOT officials said the bridge eventually needs to be widened to four lanes. That means another bridge will be built right next to the new one, for an additional cost of $49 million.

That includes the price to widen 3.5 miles of S.R. 19 leading to and from the lake.

"I think it's too much money. It's a lot of taxpayers' money. I think we should be able to do something else instead of that," said area resident Laura Levine. 

Levine said she drives the bridge a few times a week and doesn't think there's enough traffic to warrant four lanes.

"It's not back-to-back. I can say it's just steady traffic, that's all it is," said Levine.

She questions whether a total cost of nearly $85 million to improve a few miles between towns is necessary.

Because the state doesn't have enough money right now they said they have to build two two-lane bridges, instead of a larger four-lane bridge.

Tuesday's public hearing starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Adventure Christian Church in Tavares.