Florida senator wants state bridge inspections made public

Documents may be secret under anti-terrorism laws

News Florida Today Capital Bureau August 17, 2007
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Sen. Don Gaetz wants Florida’s transportation chief to release bridge inspection reports, even though the department claims the documents are secret under antiterrorism laws.

In the wake of the Minnesota I-35 bridge Aug. 1, inspectors are hurrying to complete a status report of more than 11,500 Florida bridges, and Gaetz wants that information made public.

"I think the public ought to know the condition of our bridges and I think you can release that without giving valuable information to terrorists, " the Panhandle Republican says.

"I don't think the intent of that legislation was to treat bridge inspection reports like the secret Bush family recipe for baked beans. I think the public ought to know the condition of our bridges and I think you can release that without giving valuable information to terrorists."

Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Dick Kane said the department wants to reassure the public that Florida bridges are safe, but it also has to abide by the law.

A 2002 statute written by a newly formed legislative security committee in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks shields diagrams and blueprints for public buildings, including stadiums and arenas, water treatment plants and "other structures."

Another Florida law lumps bridges under the category of "other structures," Kane said.

Gov. Charlie Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac said Crist has ordered the general counsel for his Office of Open Government to meet with transportation and security chiefs to come up with a compromise.

"They are trying to find a balance that both protects the safety of Florida's drivers while protecting the integrity of our domestic security," Isaac said.

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