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Over time, over budget, but Causeway is open

At 1:50 p.m., one eastbound lane opened to everyone. A second eastbound lane should open later today, with westbound lanes to open Friday.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published August 18, 2005


Clearwater's new Memorial Causeway bridge, more than a year and millions of dollars over budget, opened today at 1:50 p.m., when a caravan of city vehicles headed east toward a threatening sky.

One eastbound lane opened to everyone Thursday afternoon. A second eastbound lane should open later today, with westbound lanes to open on Friday, the state Department of Transportation has said.

Workers paved hot asphalt until the last minutes before opening the 2,340-foot-long, $69.3-million span.

The new bridge, one of the busiest routes to Pinellas County's beaches, fielding 30,000 cars a day, replaces a 1960s drawbridge that had contributed to a backlog of traffic through downtown.

Originally scheduled to open last year, the bridge has been beset with construction problems. Four of its main support columns were ordered replaced by the DOT. Other sections of the roadway sank during construction.

The 74-foot-tall bridge includes a bike and pedestrian trail and is capable of holding a form of light rail.

The state DOT says the bridge will last 75 years.

For more coverage, read tomorrow's Times.