GIBA says ‘thank you’ for another great season

Letter to the Editor;giba logo

Like the tides on the beaches of Boca Grande, seasonal vehicles come and go with both predictability and occasional extraordinary highs. Each new seasonal tide provides us with good customers and a continually refreshed community. The statistics these last six months* confirm that Boca Grande has experienced new record highs, like the 4,709 vehicles on March 23.

We at the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority are very thankful for the vehicles that cross the Boca Grande Causeway and three bridges. Hourly, the smiles, “thank you”s and comments like “have a good day” remind everyone that Boca Grande is a special place in this world.

We want to thank the 472 annual pass holders and 4,569 active discount pass holders who renewed their accounts, both by phone or by a smiling personal visit up the stairs to our office. Thank you to the 30 percent of drivers who paid the vehicle toll of $6, sometimes with quarters. To the 1,503 cyclists who traveled the bridge and ignored the dusty construction mess, we thank you. We have promised to work this summer to develop an after-hours tollbooth credit and debit card program.

We thank the drivers of the 22,533 truck trips that delivered all the goods and services that are so important to our sustenance and lifestyle. A few of us even thank the Coast Guard for scheduling 1,010 bridge openings, 392 with dual bridges. Many boaters had a special view of the building process.

We thank the travelers, permanent and seasonal, for their patience.  We know that the vehicles and the inconveniences of construction have sometimes been like getting your shoes wet unexpectedly when the tide rises. With a little time, it dries, and the resulting refreshed causeway and bridges are very appreciated.

The GIBA is thankful for the elected and appointed Board members who give of their time freely in committees and meetings to ensure that the construction has moved along as smoothly as possible, creating a safe and efficient causeway system. And very importantly, that these daily and construction operations are financed with secure State of Florida and commercial bank loans that are being repaid with only toll revenue and no ad valorem or other tax to the island property owners.

We want all our seasonal friends and permanent residents to know that we are very proud of the new construction AND that we are not yet complete. We need your continued patience and appreciation for the continued safety throughout the construction zone. Underneath the 225-foot deck of the swing span, there are still concrete piers and channels to be reopened. In the bridge house there is a computer system that must be made accurate on every fraction of a millimeter that the bridge moves, whether by switches, weather or tides. In the merging traffic area, new barriers must be installed to ensure that vehicles are provided a safe merging. In preparation for any and all storms creating surges both in power and water, a very powerful generator system has to be finished and tested for more than a few hours to ensure that there is uninterrupted service for days. And again after all these are certified, a closing out of the loan repayment standards must also be achieved.

During the slack tide season of the summer, GIBA will continue to finish every important detail of this construction and receive the certifications that are required by our funding support and the residents of Boca Grande. As the season changes again to the fall, we look forward to the rise again of the numbers of travelers and the business of making long- term policy decisions. In conjunction with the Boca Grande Historical Society, plans are being developed to create a public celebration to honor the newly built bridges in keeping with the first bridge opening in 1958. Now, 58 years later, the dedicated staff of GIBA is working every day to facilitate the safe passage across a two-mile span. They are thankful to each of you for being the travelers.

Ginger Watkins
Chairman, GIBA Board of Supervisors

Kathy Banson-Verrico
GIBA Executive Director