Creating a means for recreational access, boaters’ access, and continuing waterside improvements brought about the inception of the C-21 Bridge project. 

This bridge project idea was conceived more than 10 years ago when South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) determined that the gated culvert structure, known as S-169, was failing due to material deterioration. While the City of Clewiston wanted continued access to the recreational area north of the canal, they also wanted to have boat access to the west. After a series of discussions, SFWMD agreed to construct a replacement structure about a mile and a half to the west. This opened the possibility of boat access, but also led to needing a bridge at this location. Johnson Engineering was brought into the project in April of 2019. 

Some options for construction were considered. Once permitting started, it was realized that a clear span over the canal decreased environmental concerns and would make future boat traffic safer. The longer span increased the cost of the structure, but made it come to a reality with long-term benefits. There were options to fill for the approaches. It was finally decided to minimize space used by confining the fill inside mechanically stabilized earth (MSE), so that the least amount of parking would be consumed by the approach road.

The use of a bridge had two primary objectives. The first was to cross the canal for access to the recreational area and providing an adequate crossing for maintenance by SFWMD and the United States Army Corps of Engineers with heavy equipment needed to maintain the dike and structures. The second was to provide clearance above the water elevation for boat passage. The bridge structure with MSE walls was designed by another consultant, WGI, using standard FDOT girders with a poured-in-place deck.

The City realized that financial assistance would be needed for such a project. They worked with the local State legislative delegation and were provided with funds adequate to design, permit, construct, and have construction observations completed.

Construction began in September 2022, just before Hurricane Ian plowed across the State. No damage was done, and construction resumed within a week. Work was required on both sides of the canal and SFWMD restricted use of the existing culverted structure. The contractor, Zep Construction, met that challenge by using their crane to lift and swing over the canal dirt, MSE panels, concrete, and other items too heavy to move in a pickup truck. This continued until the bridge deck was in place along with sufficient progress made with soil and MSE walls to drive across the partially completed facility.

The City decided to enhance the look of the MSE walls in two ways. The first was to have a bass image cast in the concrete for some of the panels. The panels with the bass image were spaced across the walls. No bass panels were used near the canal. This was purposeful to provide a place for medallions on each side of the opening. The medallions will match those on the City’s entry signs along US 27.

Lighting of the road, sidewalk, and buffered-bike lanes was desired. The City Commission reviewed available poles and luminaires. The style chosen will be used to illuminate the improvements under design for Ventura Avenue from Deane Duff Avenue to W. C. Owen Avenue. The luminaires have LEDs for illumination. The poles and luminaires are powder coated for long life. They are also capable of receiving attachments for banners if desired in the future.

This facility is a signature project for the City and will be the start of other improvements envisioned for this area in a recent planning study conducted through the Regional Planning Council. Manager Randy Martin said “it will anchor the waterside improvements on both sides of the Herbert Hoover Dike that the City has under consideration.”

For more information contact Andy Tilton, PE, at [email protected]