Demolition activity is in full swing at the Pensacola Bay Bridge, as contractors work to remove multiple spans damaged by unmoored construction barges during Hurricane Sally last month.
According to the Florida Dept. of Transportation, demolition staffing and equipment resources have been expanded to include five barge-mounted cranes, including two 300-ton units, plus a specialty barge capable of transporting large sections for off-site demolition or delivery to an artificial reef. Two of three barges lodged beneath the structure since the storm have also been removed.
In addition, FDOT is wrapping up damage assessments of the three-mile concrete bridge, having deployed additional dive teams to complete inspections of the structure’s 220 underwater footings. So far, the agency has identified five highway spans in need of full replacement, with two more requiring partial replacement. An undetermined number of the bridge’s 525 concrete beams will also need to be replaced, along with 12 spans of the bridge’s 10-ft-wide multi-use path. The agency previously reported that several piers had been rotated or cracked by the barge impacts.
Meanwhile, design of repairs is underway, with a targeted reopening date of early March 2021.
Skanska USA Civil Southeast, the original contractor for the $430-million bay bridge replacement program, is already fabricating new beams and other substructure support elements to expedite installation following FDOT approval.
“As each repair method is developed, FDOT will be conducting reviews to ensure the contractor is hitting all milestones in the established schedule,” the agency said in a statement. Skanska has also recovered 15 of 27 construction barges that broke loose on Sept. 15, which the company attributed to the hurricane’s unexpected intensification and eastward track shift as it approached the Gulf Coast. The barges were being used to construct a new structure to parallel the damaged bridge, which was opened last year.
FDOT has not announced how the incident will affect the uncompleted bridge, which was scheduled to be completed next summer.
The agency has also asserted that “once the situation is fully assessed, and damages are fully understood, appropriate parties will be held responsible for the repairs.”
FDOT recently notified Skanska of its intent to hold the company responsible for any claims made by the trustees for the bondholders of the Garcia Point Bridge due to the agency’s temporary suspension of tolls for the bridge, which is the only other cross-bay connection to the city of Gulf Breeze.
The agency is also studying traffic measures to compensate for the bridge outage, including temporarily widening the toll bridge highway near its interchange with Interstate 10, and establishing ferry service between Pensacola and Gulf Breeze.