PENSACOLA, FL (AP) A $242-million contract has been awarded to a Virginia company to replace an Interstate 10 bridge across Escambia Bay that was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in September.
Tidewater Skanska Inc. of Virginia Beach signed the contract for the twin-span bridge with the Florida Department of Transportation.
Photographs of the bridge with a truck dangling over one of several missing sections that the storm tore open came to symbolize Ivan’s destruction across the northern Gulf Coast. Divers found the body of truck driver Roberto Molina Alvarado, of Toppenish, WA, in the bay where his cab landed.
The bridge, two lanes in each direction, was used by an estimated 42,000 vehicles per day, including 8,000 trucks.
It was closed for approximately three weeks, causing detours of an hour or more. The westbound span then was reopened with one lane in each direction.
Westbound traffic was restored to two lanes after temporary repairs were made to the eastbound span, but it remains too weak to permit more than a single lane of traffic. That has caused periodic backups of eastbound traffic that will continue until the new bridge is built.
Construction is expected to begin in May or June with the eastbound span scheduled for completion by the end of next year and the westbound opening by the end of 2007, said state DOT spokesman Tommie Speights.
The bridge is one of only three connecting Escambia and Santa Rosa counties over Pensacola and Escambia bays. The other two are on U.S. 98 and 90.
“The congestion on 98 and 90 and all the other roads that feed onto the interstate is unbearable,” said Gordon Goodin, chairman of the Santa Rosa Board of Commissioners. “They were already tough before the storm.”