Damage from Hurricane Ivan may leave only one lane open each way on the Pensacola-area span, likely creating an interstate bottleneck for years.
By Associated Press
Published November 6, 2004
PENSACOLA - Traffic on a hurricane-damaged Interstate 10 bridge may be limited to one lane each way for years until a new one can be built, transportation officials say.
A plan to temporarily restore the bridge to two lanes in each direction by mid December has been abandoned, Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Tommie Speights said Thursday.
It would take too much material and create excessive loads on the bridge's structure, he said.
"Things have changed," Speights said. "I don't think we're going to gain any lanes."
Thousands of motorists use the bridge daily, whether traveling between California and Florida's east coast or crossing between Pensacola on the west side of Escambia Bay and suburban communities on the east side in the Milton area.
"This is not good news for tourism, or for our economic base, or for people who commute," said Milton Mayor Guy Thompson. "It will curtail a lot of people who would usually hop into a car and go out to eat or go shopping."
Hurricane Ivan's storm surge ripped out huge sections of the bridge on Sept. 16, closing it until the westbound span was repaired and reopened to traffic going both ways on Oct. 5.
Photographs of the bridge with a truck dangling over one of the missing sections became symbolic of Hurricane Ivan's destruction across the northern Gulf Coast area.
Divers found the body of truck driver Roberto Molina Alvarado of Toppenish, Wash., in the bay where his cab landed.
A joint venture between Gilbert Southern of Peachtree, Ga., and Massman Construction Co. of Kansas City, Mo., will continue installing temporary metal bridge sections on the more heavily damaged eastbound span.
The plan now, however, is to open only one lane of traffic on each of the two spans, Speights said.
That would leave one lane unused in each direction to prevent the bridge from becoming overstressed.
Emergency vehicles, however, would be able to use the spare lanes.
Officials are seeking federal dollars for a replacement bridge but they have neither a timetable nor a cost estimate, Speights said.