MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Plans to repair Bear Cut Bridge, which connects Virginia Key to Key Biscayne, were given the green light by the Miami-Dade Commission.

Tuesday, commissioners unanimously ratified a $31 million contract for the year-long project with engineering firm Kiewit Infrastructure, according to CBS4 News partner the Miami Herald.

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The board also unanimously approved a request by the Key Biscayne Village Council to hire an engineer at its own expense to review the bridge’s foundations. The village had hoped its review would delay the county’s proposed repairs, which critics say might not be the best fix for the aging bridge.

But commissioners agreed with County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who said he did not want to wait to replace the westbound portion of the bridge’s corroded exposed-steel beams, and that Key Biscayne’s examination could take place at the same time as the repairs.

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The county estimates the repairs will extend the life of the Bear Cut Bridge by 40 years. Similar repairs would also be done for the West Bridge immediately after the Rickenbacker Causeway toll plaza. The westbound portions of both bridges, which were built in 1944, have been partly shut down since January after state and county inspectors detected the widespread corrosion. The eastbound portions were added in the 1980s.

A county consultant could not determine the lifespan of the westbound foundations. As part of the repairs, Kiewit will have to reinforce the existing pilings holding up the bridge, and new ones will be added to support wider pedestrian and cycling lanes. The contract with Kiewit calls for construction to be completed by the time the annual Sony Open tennis tournament opens at the Crandon Park Tennis Center next spring.

The bulk of the funding for the project — $28 million — will come from bonds the county will issue backed by an increase to $1.75, from the current $1.50, in most causeway tolls. The remaining $3 million will come from the Water and Sewer Department to pay for a portion of the project that will require burying an above-ground water main under Biscayne Bay.

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