The GIBA public meeting on Tuesday answered a lot of questions and introduced a few new faces.
The first day of construction is expected to be March 10, but Orion Marine Construction has already been hard at work in their yard in Tampa. They are busy prefabricating sections of the temporary bridge that will replace the south bridge until the new one is finished.
Orion is also working closely with utility companies to make sure that there are no surprises or delays once construction of the two bridges begins.
Paul Wingard of KCCS gave a succinct presentation explaining the timeline for construction of the fixed bridges. The new south bridge should be completed by this time next year and the new center bridge will be finished in less than two years.
The biggest concerns among the crowd seemed to be safety and disruption of travel, both on the Causeway and the water.
David Thornton, Sr. VP & Principal of Orion Marine, assured the gathering that disruption would be kept to a minimum, and that safety was a paramount concern. The only interruption to traffic will be during the paving when the temporary south bridge is merged into the Causeway, then later when the same is done with the permanent center bridge. Even then, the paving will be done in the evening, to prevent traffic snarls.
For water traffic, access to the bridges will be blocked when the new spans are being lifted from the barge onto their pilings. This is for the stability of the barge, and should only last a few hours at a time.
As for safety, Orion has an excellent record. The temporary south bridge is designed for use on I-75, so there will be no weight issues beyond those imposed by the current swing bridge. Orion maintains its own fleet of repair equipment, some of which will be kept on-site. Should anything be needed from Tampa, it can be here within hours.
Also at the meeting were Cory Butz, the VP of Florida Operations for Orion, and J.P. Doanahue, who will be the on-site project managet. Once an office site is selected, Doanahue will have an open door policy and welcomes questions.
The next scheduled meeting of the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority will be a Finance Committee meeting held on Tuesday, March 20 at 2 p.m. in the Boca Grande Community Center Suditorium.
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