■ BY SUSAN ERWIN
The traffic shift to the new bridge is planned for December and will be done in phases, according to GIBA Executive Director Kathy Banson-Verrico, and machinery testing is currently in progress in preparation for the big event.
In the first phase, “off-island traffic will exit over the new bridge and on-island traffic will continue to go over on the old bridge, for a couple of weeks,” Banson-Verrico said. “Once they complete the median barrier work on the new bridge, all traffic will switch to the new bridge. 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.”
Delays for vehicular traffic can be expected at various times during the next few months to accommodate material deliveries and construction activities, according to the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority.
All three toll lanes have been open since Monday, Nov. 16. “All vehicles need to exercise extreme caution when entering and exiting the toll booth,” Banson-Verrico added. The final roadway approaches were poured on Monday, Nov. 16.
The next phase is for the concrete span to be planed and grooved. This work began on Monday, Nov. 23. The bridge will open to vessel traffic on the hour from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will also open at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and resume opening on the hour after 8 p.m.
“We are nearing the end of this project, and I am confident that our customers will be thrilled when it is complete. We thank everyone for their patience, and we are all working hard to get the job done,” Banson-Verrico said.
Ajax Paving is on site and is working on the drainage and roadway safety improvements at the south end of the causeway. The final asphalt surface for the roadway is expected to be placed on Dec. 8. Drivers should expect detours and/or delays.