GIBA discusses swing bridge construction progress at quarterly meeting

■ BY SUE ERWINGIBA1web

The Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority held their quarterly board meeting on Wednesday. Items on the agenda included an explanation of swing bridge change orders, an update on the southern roadway construction project and a review of the 2015 fiscal year audit.

Chair Ginger Watkins called the meeting to order, saying the organization experienced an unusually active summer. “This past summer was far from dull,” Watkins said. “We had three construction projects going on simultaneously, and all of them had their complications. Our maintenance staff worked very hard to keep the bridge working, because in July, when it was so hot, that bridge did not want to open and close back. This is a very complicated, state-of-the-art, beautiful bridge.”

GIBA Executive Director Kathy Banson-Verrico said beginning this Friday, the new swing bridge will no longer be operational by remote control, and it will be controlled from the new bridge. “We’ll have a tender at the old bridge opening it, and a tender at the new one, which is good because that means we are getting closer to the end of the project,” Banson-Verrico said. The next step is to test all the mechanical and electrical aspects of the new bridge to make sure everything is working smoothly, Banson-Verrico added. The bridge will remain open to traffic and the shifts will be in phases. “During the first phase, off-island traffic will go over the new bridge and on-island traffic will continue to come over on the old bridge for a couple of weeks. Once they complete the median barrier work on the new bridge, all traffic will switch to the new bridge,” Banson-Verrico said. “After traffic moves to the new bridge, the old bridge is going to stay in the open position, so it won’t require a tender, and then they will begin to remove it.”

The construction work being completed at the south end of the causeway, by Uncle Henry’s Marina, is also taking a bit longer than expected to complete. “It was created in April as a simple project,” Watkins said. “The first problem was that FPL didn’t finish their part on time. Then we hit a lot of water lines, and they were not dead water lines, they were gushing with water. Again, it was more complicated than we anticipated.” All the drainage structures are now in place, and it is in the final phase, Banson-Verrico added.

Overall traffic from the last fiscal year is up 7 percent. “March was the highest traffic month we have ever seen, and I think that trend is going to continue,” Banson-Verrico said. Advisory member Drew Tucker said the financial auditors were here in October and they don’t anticipate any major adjustments to the budget. “We are in very solid shape as an institution,” Tucker said.

Old business included a concern over the right-of-way issue between GIBA and the Boca Grande Club. A discussion about insurance coverage took place between board members and GIBA Counsel Robert Berntsson. A motion was made by Watkins to table the matter until further details are understood about the insurance liability.