By Jenn Miller
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Federal, state and local officials stood atop 5,280 linear feet of restoration progress as they came together to celebrate the completion of the Tamiami Trail one-mile bridge March 19 in Miami, Fla.
"Today marks a critical milestone for the Tamiami Trail Modifications Project," said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, who spoke at the ceremony alongside Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Everglades National Park Superintendent Dan Kimball, and South Florida National Parks Trust Board Chairman Neal McAliley "But, there is still more to do. With the continued support of the Administration, the state of Florida and our partnering agencies, we will continue our work to restore this American treasure."
The bridge is part of the Tamiami Trail Modifications Project, a key component in the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park project, that once completed will allow for increased water flow into Everglades National Park.
"Thanks to a remarkable partnership between Federal agencies, Members of Congress, the State of Florida, and the many stakeholders here in South Florida, we have reached a historic day in the long quest to restore the water flows vital to a renewed and healthy Everglades," said Salazar. "With the completion of this bridge and the Modified Water Deliveries Project, we are moving ever closer to our goal of restoring the River of Grass to ensure the health of this iconic landscape for future generations to enjoy while creating jobs and boosting Florida's economy."
The Modified Water Deliveries project is a collaborative effort by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, South Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Transportation. Agency representatives were in attendance to celebrate the opening of the bridge, alongside numerous non-governmental organizations.
"It is with sincere gratitude that I applaud our dedicated project team for their commitment to getting the job done," said Col. Alan Dodd, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District. "Through their determination, the dedicated and collaborative efforts undertaken by our partnering agencies and the support of numerous non-governmental organizations, we were able to complete this critical project milestone."
In addition to constructing a one-mile bridge, 9.7 miles of roadway will be modified to allow for increased water levels in the L-29 Canal that will flow beneath the bridge. Seventy-five percent of the roadway has been completed, and the Tamiami Trail Modifications project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Water delivered from this completed project will improve thousands of acres of wetlands, aid in the recovery of the wading bird populations, and will restore the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water deliveries to the Park.
As part of the celebration, Darcy and Salazar cut a ribbon on the bridge deck prior to taking the inaugural drive across the fully-constructed bridge, which will be opened up to traffic in the upcoming weeks.