Emergency repairs have been completed of Sanibel Causeway in Lee County, Fla. just 15 days after work began to reconnect the sole access from the mainland to Sanibel Island that was heavily damaged when Hurricane Ian slammed into the area Sept. 28. 

Crews from Jacksonville, Fla.-based Superior Construction and Fort Myers, Fla.-based Ajax Paving were contracted for the work by the Florida Dept. of Transportation (FDOT), which says permanent repairs will follow. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced the project completion on Oct. 19, more than a week before the target of Oct. 31. In a statement, he called the work to restore access to Sanibel Island “historic.”

Jessica Ottaviano, FDOT communications manager, told ENR Oct. 10 that the three-mile roadway experienced significant damage at multiple points when the storm made landfall, with work set to include restoring the roadway and repairing bridge approaches. 

The majority of the work consisted of restoring the roadway and land leading up to bridge structures that were washed away. 

FDOT Secretary Jared Perdue cited "dedicated team members who quite literally built a road in the Gulf in 15 days."

He said “cutting through the bureaucratic red tape and delivering on our promise to get Sanibel Island up and running has been a top priority, adding that  “by restoring access over the causeway, repair crews, first responders, emergency vehicles, business owners and residents will be better able to expedite recovery from this storm.”

Crews have worked around the clock to restore access to the island of 6,000 residents, according to a statement. With causeway completion, needed services and supplies can now reach the hard-hit community, as well as a one-time convoy of more than 350 vehicles for utility restoration that made its way to the island as work was progressing Oct. 11. 

"A project like this, under normal circumstances, could take months," Perdue says in the statement. "However, FDOT, Florida Highway Patrol, Lee County and Florida Dept. of Emergency Management made use of strategic and innovative techniques to rebuild the causeways quickly.”

The statement adds that FDOT and Lee County have completed emergency repairs to several other damaged bridges, including the Pine Island Bridge in less than three days. Florida prioritized road repair in Ian’s wake, mobilizing equipment, materials and manpower to reconnect access from the mainland to islands and complete more than 2,500 bridge repairs by Oct. 2.