Gov. announces $40 million commitment for next phase of Everglades restoration project

Third bridge built by state on Tamiami Trail opens to traffic Tuesday

By Madeleine Wright - Reporter, Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - Exactly one week before the general election, Gov. Rick Scott joined state officials to celebrate the completion of a portion of a multiyear project to revamp Tamiami Trail and announce that the Sunshine State is committing $40 million in funding for the next portion of the project.

On Tuesday, the third bridge the state is building on Tamiami Trail is being opened to traffic for the first time. The ultimate goal of the multimillion dollar project is to restore water flow from one part of the Everglades to another part that has been experiencing a drought for decades.

According to a document from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, a total of 10.7 miles of Tamiami Trail in the Everglades is either being replaced by a bridge or elevated. 

The document states that 3 miles of Tamiami Trail are being replaced by a bridge. The other 7.7 miles are being elevated. 

Officials said there is currently too much water on the north side that's not doing anything, and not enough water on the south side. 

Tamiami Trail, as it is now, basically acts as a dam. 

By building these three bridges, water will flow from the north side of Tamiami Trail to the south side and rehydrate Everglades National Park, which will help restore the ecosystem and make a healthier habitat for plants and animals. It will also improve the fisheries.

So, why elevate Tamiami Trail if the whole point is to allow water to flow from the north side to the south? By elevating three sections of Tamiami Trail, water will be forced to flow underneath the three bridges that are adjacent.

Bridges 1 and 2 have already been completed for a while, but Bridge 3 just finished being built and is opening Tuesday.

The part of the project that involves elevating the three sections of Tamiami Trail have not started yet. Those will take another year and a half to complete, officials said. 

According to DEP officials, the federal government was supposed to pay for 100 percent of the bridge, but Congress was only willing to pay for 50 percent. 

Scott, therefore, said Florida stepped in to put up the rest. 

The last phase of the project is expected to cost about $100 million. 

Scott is currently campaigning to win U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's seat. 

The two-term Republican governor is trying to bolster his reputation when it comes to the environment. He has been criticized by environmental groups for his lack of response to the increasing algae blooms polluting the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

But his campaign claims Scott is committed to Everglades restoration, pointing out that the Legislature invested more than $1.8 billion on the "River of Grass."

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