Josh Solomon by Treasure Coast Newspapers
April 7, 2021
VERO BEACH — Extensive deterioration to concrete beams on the east side of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge has left a portion of the span “unstable,” yet the Florida Department of Transportation maintains the bridge is safe.
FDOT records obtained by TCPalm provide an incomplete picture of the 17th Street Bridge. Moreover, heavy redactions and high costs for obtaining records from the state agency have raised concerns from First Amendment experts.
Documents show the three most eastern spans are “scour critical,” an industry term for a bridge that has so much erosion or removal of its foundational materials that it reaches a critical point.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said scour is the most common cause of bridge failure.
The inspection report says the bridge’s scour-critical levels make it unstable, according to a brief structural appraisal section. Further details are not included.
Photos taken under the bridge show the scour-critical elements — concrete crumbling into the Indian River Lagoon, leaving steel rebar to rust and fray as it’s exposed to the water that is less than 5 feet below.
The FDOT documents, however, are heavily redacted. The most recent inspection report obtained, conducted in November and completed in January, is 101 pages, and nearly two-thirds of its pages are entirely blacked-out. Pages that do provide information often redact details.