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Davenport Fla--Bridge Work Effects Emergency Response

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  • Davenport Fla--Bridge Work Effects Emergency Response

    The Ledger Online

    Bridge Work Affects Business, Emergency Calls

    By MIKE GROGAN
    Ledger Correspondent

    DAVENPORT -- Michael Eckersley is able to sigh somewhat philosophically over the recent demolition of the bridge near his County Road 54 business.

    "Progress is necessary," the president of J&M Management said this week from his office. "We're coping."

    Not more than a football field's length from his parking lot is a sea of "Road Closed" signs stretching across C.R. 54 -- also called Ronald Reagan Parkway -- and a huge canyon-shaped hole in the ground that used to have a bridge spanning it. At the bottom of the hole, Interstate 4 clogs its way along.

    "Half of my business is on one side of the bridge," Eckersley pointed out. "Half of it is on the other."

    C.R. 54 is a two-lane, east-west connector between U.S. 17-92 and U.S. 27 that passes over I-4. Or at least it did when there was a bridge in place. And it will again when a new bridge is completed, which is expected to be sometime early in 2004.

    In the meantime, drivers must detour up Old Lake Wilson Road, out County Road 532 and through the Champions Gate development, a side trip of about five miles for those closest to the east side of the road closure.

    Eckersley's building is the nearest business to where C.R. 54 ends and the hole in the ground begins.

    "My vehicles have to drive that extra mileage every time they want to get to the other side of where the bridge used to be," he said.

    Extra mileage, of course, means extra fuel consumption. That's an extra business expense Eckersley says he will just have to accept until the new bridge is in place.

    That doesn't concern him as much as the potential problem the road closure might pose for emergency vehicles that regularly use C.R. 54 to reach the myriad of neighborhoods that have sprung up along the road over the past decade or so.

    Polk County Emergency Response Station 30 provides both fire and ambulance service to the area. East of Eckersley's business, it would normally be about a two-mile drive. Now it is more than seven miles.

    "If I had a heart attack, I might be dead before an ambulance could get to me," he said.

    Emergency personnel at Station 30 agree that the detour slows response time to the area, but not by much.

    Five or six minutes is what David Warren, a full-time firefighter at Station 30, estimates.

    There is also backup from Station 18, which is on C.R. 54 about five miles east of the downed bridge. That puts it on the same side of the road closure as Eckersley. But while Station 30 is a full-time station that is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Station 18 has only two full-time firefighters on duty 40 hours a week, relying on volunteers the rest of the time.

    There was talk of operating Station 18 on a full-time basis, Warren said. But that was expensive, and it was decided to see how the volunteers did.

    So far, he added, there haven't been any problems caused by the gap in the middle of C.R. 54 and the extra response time.

    So far, so good, he said.

    Removal and reconstruction of the C.R. 54 bridge is part of the Florida Department of Transportation's extensive I-4 improvement project that involves replacing old bridges to meet future expansion of the busy interstate highway.

    The C.R. 54 bridge wasn't long enough or wide enough to accommodate what is planned for I-4, said Ken Nelson, spokesman for the project.

    Future plans for the interstate, he pointed out, include widening from four to six lanes and, ultimately, 10 lanes. Also in the future is a high-speed rail system that will travel down the median. Longer, wider bridges are needed to span the wider highway corridor.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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