BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Work continues to progress on the swing bridge, but drivers crossing the bridge and boaters attempting to pass under the bridge will be experiencing some temporary issues.
According to the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority, traffic will continue with on-and-off lane closures while the new bridge is being built. These delays are to accommodate material deliveries and construction activities.
“The swing span balancing has been completed and the next phase of construction began on August 20,” said Kathy Banson-Verrico, executive director of GIBA. “GLF will be preparing and setting their formwork for the riding surface on the new swing span. This phase will include the concrete pour for the haunches (bottom level of surface), the exodermic deck panels installed, and the final concrete pour for the top level of the surface.
“While this work is being performed, GLF will also be finalizing the interior of the new tender house and the final electrical/machinery work. After this phase is complete there will be a “functionality testing” period and then vehicular traffic will be shifted to the new bridge. We are anticipating the traffic shift on or around October 30, 2015.”
Kathy said the traffic switch to the new bridge will also require some lane shifting at the toll booth area. Eventually, for a time, the weigh scale lane will be restricted to trucks only, and the center lane will be restricted to cash and bridge pass traffic. The lefthand automated lane should be back open by then, and will be restricted to bridge pass traffic only.
“As always, we will do our best to minimize traffic delays,” Kathy said. “Safety is our top priority and we need drivers to be aware and slow down when passing through the construction zone. The Charlotte County Sheriff is present along the causeway and will enforce the construction zone posted speed limit of 20 mph.”
Boat traffic will be affected as well. The swing bridge will be closed to boat traffic from Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 7 a.m. to Friday, Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. GIBA will open the bridge to boat traffic for the weekend – Friday, Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. to Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 7 a.m. – then close it again to boat traffic on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 7 a.m. It will remain closed until Friday, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. for a total of 10 days closed during that period.
Currently the swing bridge project is on schedule, and approximately 61 percent complete.