Florida contractors Superior Construction and Ajax Paving are tackling emergency repairs to the Sanibel Causeway in Lee County, Fla., aiming to have multiple washouts of the three-mile, three-bridge barrier island-to-mainland link repaired by Oct. 31, the Florida Dept. of Transportation says.

In the wake of Hurricane Ian’s devastation across Florida, government officials prioritized emergency road work to reestablish a connection with hard-hit barrier islands. Crews restored access to Pine Island in just a few days, with state attention now turned to the Sanibel Island connector.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) directed FDOT on Oct. 4 to prioritize causeway repair to allow first responders access to the island, as well as crews working to remove debris and restore power.

In an update Oct. 9, he reported agency crews were working around the clock on the causeway to the one barrier island still cut off from the mainland with the last remaining bridge structure that remains closed. The three causeway bridges, constructed in 2007, receive an average of 19,690 trips per day, according to FDOT,

Jessica Ottaviano, agency communications manager, says causeway repair completion may be sooner than Oct. 31, although the roadway experienced significant damage at multiple points along its length when the storm made landfall on Sept. 28.

“From initial assessments, repairs will include restoring the roadway, repairing bridge approaches and performing bridge stability analysis,” she says. “The majority of the work consists of restoring the roadway and land that led up to bridge structures as they were washed away and are the main parts of the connection to the island.”

The actual bridge structures have been inspected and cleared as safe, she says, with work now moving to linking components back together.

Superior Construction, based in Jacksonville, Fla., and Ajax Paving Florida, based in Fort Myers, were awarded the emergency response contract as prime contractors on Oct. 4, Ottaviano says. Hundreds of trucks and other equipment have been mobilized to the area and various crews are working at multiple places along the causeway. Crews are working in parallel at different locations along the entire causeway, both land-side and marine-side, to expedite repairs.

She says that while "it is anticipated to have the Sanibel Causeway accessible under temporary conditions by Oct. 31, FDOT and our partners in Lee County are exhausting all efforts and working with these contractors to have the access restored even quicker than that.”

Once immediate emergency repairs are in place, they will be integrated with permanent long-term causeway repairs that will follow, Ottaviano says.


Power Restoration, Other Work and Outreach Continues

The Category-4 hurricane, which brought 150-mph winds, 12- to 18-ft storm surges and up to 17 in. of rain to southwestern Florida when it came ashore, knocked out power to more than 5 million customers in Florida and the Carolinas. The storm is responsible for an estimated $47 billion in insured losses, according to the National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information Service. The Associated Press reports the storm's death toll has reached 101. 

According to Florida Power and Light, 99.8% of all its customers who lost power during the storm now are reconnected, a total of more than 2.1 million. Efforts now are turning to customers still without power in Lee County, in the southwestern part of the state, where Sanibel Island is located.

Duke Energy, which has just under 2 million customers in Florida and 4.5 million in the Carolinas where Ian made its second landfall, reported 97% of the latter group had power restored by Oct. 2 and said it wrapped up operations in Florida on Oct. 3.

DeSantis’ office reported 46,481 reported power outages remaining on Oct. 9, with more than 42,000 line workers restoring power across the state.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has installed the first temporary blue-tarp roofs through its Operation Blue Roof program, which provides residents in storm-damaged homes with livable dwellings while the region recovers, according to DeSantis’ office. The program includes Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Collier and DeSoto counties, where Corps personnel are going door-to-door to enroll residents in the program for free temporary roofing.