Replacement of Damaged Bridge Could Start in Spring

Fri February 04, 2005 - Southeast Edition

PENSACOLA, FL (AP) Work to build a new Interstate 10 bridge in the western Florida Panhandle to replace the one damaged by Hurricane Ivan is expected to begin this spring, federal and state officials said.

Construction on the bridge connecting Escambia and Santa Rosa counties is set to begin after the contract for the $325 million project is accepted on April 1, officials said.

“It’s a done deal,” said Mike Zeigler, director of transportation planning for the West Florida Regional Planning Council.

The bridge over Escambia Bay was heavily damaged on Sept. 16. Traffic has been restored on the two west-bound lanes but is limited to a single east-bound lane.

Photographs of the bridge with a truck dangling over one of the missing sections symbolized 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.

About 8,000 trucks travel that stretch of I-10 daily along with thousands of commuters and other travelers.

The eastbound and westbound spans will consist of three traffic lanes and an emergency lane, said Howard Newman, project director for plan developer PBS&J of Orlando.

Replacing the eastbound span will come first, with completion expected by December 2006. Construction of the westbound lanes should end the following year.

In October, Congress approved spending more than $1 billion to repair roads and bridges damaged by hurricanes and other natural disasters.