By AARON SHAROCKMAN
The eastbound lanes of the $69.3-million Clearwater Causeway open to traffic Thursday morning -- 514 days late.
After 1,268 days, after concrete twisted and road fell, after a lawsuit and threats and angst, after doomsayers proclaimed calamity, the $69.3-million Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge opens to traffic Thursday, 514 days late and close to $10-million over budget.
Crews will push aside the concrete barriers that block the bridge's eastbound lanes sometime in the morning, and a group of city vehicles will make the inaugural trip. Slowly, lanes of the bridge will open to everyone.
It will be a muted unveiling of a bridge beset by problems since construction started. The builders, PCL Civil Constructors, still must race to get off the job site or face stiff fines. They're already absorbing the additional costs.
Passersby have watched the sleek, 70-foot-tall span rise, and fall, and rise again over Clearwater Harbor, in the shadow of its 1960s predecessor.
They followed the pitfalls, engineering flaws and construction gaffes.
They wrestled over who to blame - the builder, the state, the city, the engineers.
Now for the first time, they'll interact with the half-mile bridge - its curves, its smell, its views. The bridge will ferry 30,000 vehicles a day to the beach, state officials say.