As another Gulf Coast hurricane spurs a state investigation into Skanska USA Civil’s management of erosion-control measures on its Pensacola Bay Bridge project, the Florida Dept. of Transportation is adding to the contractor’s problems by demanding reimbursement of potentially millions of dollars in lost toll revenues for the now out-of-service span.
Heavy rainfall from the outer bands of Hurricane Delta reportedly caused substantial amounts of red clay to flow into the bay from the company's bridge construction site near Gulf Breeze early Saturday morning. Bystanders' photos and videos had suggested erosion-control measures were not in place.
In a statement, Skanska acknowledged that “sediment runoff consisting of clean fill sand washed past the project’s perimeter,” adding that the problem had since been remediated. “We are currently ensuring positive drainage and reinforcing the perimeter by adding additional barriers and controls as needed,” the company said.
The Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection is investigating the incident, and could levy fines or penalties on the responsible party. No timetable for the investigation has been given.
Skanska was in the process of building a parallel structure to an existing 3-mile bay crossing when wind-driven waves from Hurricane Sally unmoored more than 20 construction barges on Sept. 16. At least three barges struck the year-old concrete structure, rendering five spans irreparable and damaging multiple beams and piers. According to FDOT’s most recent Oct. 6 update, three barges remained “on or under the structure.”
Repairs are expected to take at least six months, according to an FDOT estimate. The entire $430-million design-build bridge replacement program was originally scheduled to conclude next fall. Meanwhile, FDOT has suspended tolls at least through mid-October on the Garcon Point Bridge, Pensacola Bay's only other highway crossing. In an Oct. 9 letter to Skanska, FDOT Director of Transportation Operations Jason Peters notified the company that the agency plans to seek damages resulting from the lost revenue.
“It is the Department’s intent to pursue recovery from Skanska USA Civil Southeast, Inc., for any claims that the Trustees for the bondholders of the Garcia Point Bridge may assert against the Department for lost toll revenues," Peters wrote. "But for the barges rendering the Pensacola Bay Bridge impassible, there would have been no need to suspend the tolls.”
Skanska declined to comment on the letter. According to an FDOT report, the two-lane toll bridge generated $7.5 million in revenue during FY 2018.