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Engineers racing to design new bridge for aging State Road 405 near Kennedy Space Center

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Using augmented reality, the 321 LAUNCH app will transform the way you watch live rocket launches.

Aging bridge links the mainland to Kennedy Space Center.

VIERA — In fast-track fashion, traffic engineers hope to finish design work on a future replacement State Road 405 bridge across the Indian River by January 2021.

The aging bridge serves as a critical corridor linking the mainland with Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — and the bridge must shoulder heavyweight spacecraft payloads and similar freight.

But by 2021, the drawbridge could prove unsafe for spacecraft and other heavy cargo, a NASA engineering study determined. Bridge replacement could cost $140 million — and no construction funding has been earmarked yet, said Bob Kamm, Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization executive director.

“We are working diligently — and the direction of the project changes almost daily,” Mary McGehee, Florida Department of Transportation project manager, told the Space Coast TPO board Thursday.

“Everybody is very, very committed. We recognize the importance of this project. We certainly understand how strategic it is for everyone that’s out in the NASA complex,” McGehee said.

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Planners must calculate a construction cost estimate by August, McGehee said. A public meeting on bridge design may occur in December. No construction target date has been set.

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Built in 1964, the twin bridges extend 2,993 feet with 58 spans. The drawbridge opening measures 90 feet horizontally, with a 28-foot vertical clearance above the river when closed.

The bridge connects southern Titusville with the spaceport, the KSC Visitor Complex and fast-growing Exploration Park, where Blue Origin and OneWeb Satellites are building manufacturing plants.

What’s more, the bridge serves as a hurricane evacuation route for northern Merritt Island.

The bridge-planning study launched in February. Kamm said the effort required two years of back-and-forth negotiations between FDOT in DeLand and Tallahassee and NASA in Washington, D.C., and the Space Coast.

“This is a very unusual project, a very important project. Unusual in the sense that the (planning) study is actually being paid for by NASA,” Kamm said.

“This is a federal bridge. It is not a state bridge. It is not a county bridge — it is a federal bridge that belongs to NASA,” he said.

“And that is presenting some complications. For instance, who is the lead agency? Who’s in charge of this project?” he asked.

The future SR 405 bridge project measures roughly 10,000 feet long, including the east and west roadway approaches. Permitting agencies include the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Service and St. Johns River Water Management District.

Neale is South Brevard watchdog reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.

Contact Neale at 321-242-3638

or rneale@floridatoday.com.

Twitter: @RickNeale1

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Brevard County has no shortage of great places to watch a launch. Here’s where to go and how to make the most of your experience.
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Using AR tech, 321 LAUNCH app lets the user “launch” an animated SpaceX rocket in a creative way. But that’s just one of the cool perks: It also launches in real time with live rocket launches. Video by Jessica Saggio, FLORIDA TODAY.
FLORIDA TODAY

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