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Venitian drawbridge in Miami goes up for sale

The 70-year-old western drawbridge on Miami's scenic Venetian Causeway is going on the block for $800,000, courtesy of some federal regulations.

The first concrete-and-steel drawbridge across Biscayne Bay has a rich history. And that is precisely why the Florida Department of Transportation must offer it for sale.

The 3-mile roadway, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is set for a $25.9-million renovation. Most of the bridge, built in 1925, will be restored to preserve the Venetian's low-water profile. Work is scheduled to begin Sept. 19 and run until April 1998.

But the 0.4-mile long roadway and the 8-foot high westernmost bascule drawbridge _ its western sidewalk already collapsing _ is to be fully replaced.

Federal regulations require that before any replacement, all historic structures such as this be offered for sale in hopes of relocation and preservation.

Is the Venetian's 914-foot long, western span linking Miami and Biscayne Island is headed for Lake Havasu City, Arizona, joining its distant sister, England's old London Bridge? Not likely.

DOT's Christine Pritchard said she's had no inquiries despite the "for sale" ads she placed this month in preservation publications as well as newspapers.

The Venetian sale comes with catches. Buyers must agree to preserve the span, must keep it in the continental United States and must pay moving costs. Public agencies will get preference. The $800,000 is to help defray the cost of moving the bridge.

Buyers have until Sept. 20 to submit bids and the feds will then review offers. If no one buys it, the state will spend $800,000 to demolish it.