Tampa, Fla. — On May 16, 2014, an Atkins-engineered, 280-foot-long bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the scenic Withlacoochee River was officially opened to the public during a special dedication ceremony held in Dunnellon, Fla. The $2 million bridge — under construction since October 2012 — was dedicated along with the Dunnellon Trail, a new paved trail designed to help connect two major Florida multi-use trails. Atkins designed and engineered the new bridge under a contract with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

Attendees at the Dunnellon Trail and Bridge dedication ceremony enjoy viewing the Withlacoochee River from the Atkins-designed bridge. Photo: Atkins

More than 100 people attended the dedication ceremony, including Florida State Senator Charles S. “Charlie” Dean (R-District 5), Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary of Land and Recreation Katy Fenton, Dunnellon Mayor Nathan Whitt, and Atkins’ North American CEO and President L. Joe Boyer. Representatives from the Atkins team that designed the bridge — led by project manager and senior landscape architect David Larsen — were also in attendance.

Larsen said, “For this project, the best technical resources within Atkins collaborated to develop an innovative, environmentally sensitive, and cost-effective solution. The bridge enhances Florida’s eco-tourism opportunities while providing enhanced mobility and quality of life for Florida residents and visitors alike. The bridge design reflects Dunnellon’s unique history; and more importantly, serves as a dynamic attraction for the region.”

The new bridge, built on the site of a former railway bridge, is a key link in connecting two well-known Florida trails: the 110-mile Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway (which connects Florida’s east and west coasts) and the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail (which connects three counties in west-central Florida); both trails are used by hikers, bicyclists, skaters, and runners.

The bridge was constructed in three prefabricated sections, using a significant amount of “green” and low-maintenance materials — including recycled weathered steel that does not require painting. Concrete mixes incorporated fly ash, which reduced the need for Portland cement by up to 50 percent. In addition, sheet pile walls were constructed with 100 percent recycled materials and placed to reduce site grading — thereby minimizing construction impacts on the river and its surrounding wetlands. The bridge design itself pays homage to the historic railroad bridge that once occupied the site.

“The Dunnellon Trail Bridge could have been a very basic span with no aesthetics or relevance to history or the community,” noted Boyer. “But we partnered with the City of Dunnellon, Citrus County, and many Florida state agencies and jointly created a plan to deal effectively with the project’s complex environmental, cultural, technical, and cost issues. The result is a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing bridge that provides the community with a new, multi-use transportation and recreation alternative.”

The project was paid for by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by means of a Transportation Enhancement Project grant and funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.