Breakthrough reached in long-delayed Everglades restoration

After two decades, numerous changes of plans and multiple lawsuits, the federal government is finally ready to break open the asphalt dam across the Everglades called the Tamiami Trail.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week announced it has awarded an $81 million contract to a Sunrise firm to replace a section of road that has blocked the flow of the River of Grass for 80 years with a one-mile-long bridge. It's a big breakthrough, and not just because the bid came in $120 million cheaper than expected.

``This is a very, very significant step,'' said Dan Kimball, superintendent of Everglades National Park. ''It really puts us on a path for a ground-breaking we've been looking forward to for 20 years.''

The project is critical to both restoring water flow to the park and something just as important to Everglades restoration — public and political support for projects dogged by interagency bickering, repeated delays and spiraling cost projections.

Building the bridge would close a long and ugly chapter in what the National Research Council last year pronounced ``one of the most discouraging stories in Everglades restoration.'' It was 1989 when Congress originally approved the Trail overhaul.

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