While the speed limit is only 15 mph on the Boca Grande Causeway right now, motorists have been slowing down further to take a better look at all the activity taking place on the south bride. Construction has kept a brusque pace, and while the bridge is shaping up many islanders have questions about why taking the road down to one lane there is necessary in mid-January.
It’s pretty simple, really. If they don’t, there will be construction going on right on top of passing cars.
Beginning in mid-January the road at the south bridge will be controlled by two traffic signals, one at each end of the bridge. Message boards will also be used.
The wing support side walls of the bridge are complete. The final deck rebar is complete. Pouring of the first 50 percent of the South Bridge deck was completed on December 11 and the final 50 percent on the north half of the new concrete deck topping will be completed this Friday morning, Dec. 14.
“There’s a challenge when you’re in an elevated situation,” said Jim Cooper, executive director of the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority. “The old bridge is at a nine-foot elevation, the new bridge is at a 16-foot elevation. In order to take the new south bridge to 16 feet, you need 200 extra feet of space to get there. So you have one full lane of traffic, then a cutout, and the second lane has not been built yet because the curve of the road comes into where the second lane should be. In other words, they can’t complete the new bridge until they cut off one lane of the old bridge.”
In the original schedule that was set, GIBA signed a contract for Orion, giving them 365 days to complete the changeover for the south bridge. That includes changing traffic from the temporary bridge to the new bridge.
“They can’t do that last part until all other parts are done,” Cooper said. “They have been accelerated like crazy to get everything done on the south bridge. The bridge board posed the question as to whether we should delay the project and keep traffic flowing through the end of March the way it is now, and then finish in April or May. Unfortunately, it was explained that it would add cost to the project.
“In order not to have to buy the right-of-way, and there isn’t any room anyway to buy because it’s very tight, we have to do it this way. We tried to explain that to people, and maybe people can start to see the problem now.”
Cooper said Orion project managers got in touch with residents near the bridge construction recently, and gave each one a flyer prior to when they were going to start pouring the decking concrete at 3 a.m. recently.
“The residents they spoke with didn’t seem to mind the construction,” Cooper said. “We’ll be doing the same thing on December 14, only this time they’ll be pouring for the north half of the south bridge.”
Contractors are ahead of schedule on the center bridge at this time, and Cooper said they have pulled everyone off that project to finish the south bridge on time.
“It’s expected to be a full 30 days of work right now, including 13 nights,” Cooper explained. “They need that time to get it done.”
The anticipated date of completion for the south bridge is in the middle of March, 2013. Cooper said he is confident they will have it done by then.
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