TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Parking around the state Capitol will be an issue the next couple of legislative sessions.READ MORE: Man Killed In Fort Lauderdale Shooting, Family Believes He Was Targeted
House and Senate underground parking decks have sustained damage from expanding tree roots, the weight of soil and water intrusion, forcing state officials to revamp a four-year plan that called for shoring up the facilities and modernizing a plaza on the west side of the Capitol.
The Senate parking deck had to be closed to vehicles in May as cracks had grown in support beams. But the official overseeing the project said the condition of the parking structures doesn’t affect the overall Capitol complex.
“It’s the Capitol, so it’s a big deal,” Department of Management Services Secretary Chad Poppell said Wednesday. “We’re confident we’re going to be able to get the (parking) structure repaired and get folks back in there in a short time.”
The Legislature had allocated $36 million for the plaza work and repairs to the parking decks. Rather than the public plaza being the first to be overhauled, the Senate parking deck — the emergency repairs to that deck are now projected to be more than $20 million on their own — will go first.
“It’s serious,” Poppell said. “We had an engineering firm tell us we needed to address some issues. We were preparing to do that. Then we got a second opinion. An independent engineering firm came in, did an analysis and the two firms came together and said ‘you have to close the garage now.’ They definitely elevated the level of concern.”
Employees who had used the 210-space Senate deck are now parking in nearby state parking facilities. Senators and some of their staff will have spaces moved to a third parking deck under the Capitol.
Work is scheduled to begin this weekend to remove about 150 holly trees and two live oaks that are atop the decks, which sit on opposite wings of the Capitol property.READ MORE: Florida Man Daniel Baker Found Guilty In State Capitol Plot
To comply with a Tallahassee tree ordinance, the live oaks will eventually be replaced with 13 “mature” live oaks, Poppell said.
Workers will also remove about 7,300 tons of dirt that is now above the two parking decks.
“We have to get the weight off the top because that is exacerbating the problem,” Poppell said.
The House parking structure isn’t considered in as dire shape as the Senate deck.
Poppell said similar structural conditions are seen in the House deck, but the engineering consensus is that removing the weight from the roof will allow that work to wait until after the Senate repairs are completed.
“One of the decisions we made was to not do all these projects at the same time and close access to the Capitol for 2, 2½ years,” Poppell said.
Renovation to the western entrance plaza called Waller Park is now set to begin in about two years.MORE NEWS: Local Political Leaders Want Gov. Ron DeSantis To Move Up Special Election For Alcee Hastings Congressional Seat
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.