Business Owner Reacts to Flagler Bridge Closing Plans

Sally KimballThe Civic Association received the following letter today from Sally Kimball, a member and business owner in Palm Beach:

It is with complete dismay that I heard the news today about the closing of the Flagler Bridge.  While I understand the safety issues (after all, I cross the bridge a couple of times a day myself and don’t want to be in danger) it is terribly disturbing that no alternative short-term plan has been made for some passage-way to the Royal Poinciana Business area and north residential neighborhoods of the island.

Obviously, there is a great amount of trepidation that the officials will keep their promise to open the bridge on November 1st as they have not adhered to promises already made to the business and residents of Palm Beach.  Fool us once and all that jazz.

How exactly do State and Department of Transportation officials think the businesses that depend on local residents can continue to keep their doors open for this long a duration?  How difficult will the town make it for people who actually do brave the impossible traffic conditions to park for longer than the prescribed hour?  How much extra time will be needed for employees of these business to tackle the traffic funnels on the other two remaining options on and off the island.  Where is the guarantee that the bridge will be open during the “season” without our active and affluent citizens  having to resort to demanding (some may say begging) the State of Florida to have some compassion for our situation?   How pleased should everyone be that the $10 million bridge band-aid didn’t work and is just another example of your tax dollars NOT at work?

With all the hullabaloo raised regarding the PUD-5 Proposition vote, the money spent over the last 9 years, the acrimony created between neighbors and friends, the question needs to be raised:   was it all a just waste of time, effort and money?  What developer, restaurant or business owner  in their right mind would even want to be in the Royal Poinciana location for the next several years?

Who are we kidding…this bridge has been old for a long time.  It had been unstable for the past several years.  Where were the creative thinkers and engineers and planners with alternate options IN PLACE so that in the event of a major problem we would not be in this situation?   At the town meeting last fall when the Department of Transportation director said, “well, we never had this problem before…” I found  the publically admitted lack forethought stunning.

For heaven’s sake, we landed ON THE MOON almost 45 years ago and a small bridge that is only 4  lanes wide can’t be built within a year or so?  Either our expectations and standards have been drastically lowered or we have lost our voice, trusted the wrong people, been wildly manipulated by county, state and federal officials and funded countless contractors and government entities with no perceivable benefit to our town.

Shame on the State, shame on the Florida Department of Transportation, shame on the the Palm Beach officials who believed their promises, shame on the citizens and business who didn’t demand more, sooner.

Now how do we keep business doors open, residents safe in emergency fire and health situations, tourists still seeking to experience “Palm Beach” and maintain the daily life that we came to take for granted?  It’s time for us to put our heads together to mitigate a bad situation, develop incentives for customers and residents alike to support the businesses of our town and set  achievable (though perhaps expensive) goals for the contractors and officials to complete this project or develop alternatives within defined time periods or suffer severe legal and monetary penalties.

With respect,
Sally Kimball


North End