Demolition, recovery underway on hurricane-damaged ‘3-Mile Bridge’ across Florida’s Pensacola Bay

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Three Mile Bridge Assessment
The Florida Department of Transportation and contractors are assessing damage to Pensacola’s Three-Mile Bridge. Demolition on damaged portions began Sept. 28 in preparation for repairs. (Courtesy: Florida Department of Transportation)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Demolition on the damaged area of Florida’s Pensacola Bay Bridge, popularly known as the Three-Mile Bridge, began Monday, Sept. 28, according to a statement released by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The bridge has been closed to traffic since Hurricane Sally swept through the area Sept. 17, resulting in damage to the structure.

According to FDOT, inspection and assessment of damage to the bridge is nearing completion: The survey of the piers and topside inspections have been completed along with most of the underwater footings.

Demolition experts are first focusing on areas of the bridge that need to be cleared for dive access to examine the final 22 footings below the waterline. The contractor is utilizing additional resources to expedite demolition, FDOT said. Three of the contractor’s barges remain on or under the structure and the removal of those barges will have to be done with great caution. The contractor has prioritized the removal of the barges and will work closely with FDOT to ensure the least amount of additional damage possible to the bridge in this effort.

The design is underway for the permanent repairs and reestablishment of four lanes of traffic on the bridge. Durability, and ensuring there is absolutely no reduction in the bridge’s strength as a result of the repairs, remains paramount in the design plans.

“Although we hope to have the final total number of the spans/piers that will ultimately need to be replaced by the end of this week, the contractor has already fabricated 25 beams and the piers needed to begin repairs,” FDOT’s statement reads. “The contractor has also begun constructing more replacement beams and piers at its offsite yard and has reached out to other facilities to assist in production. This aggressive effort will allow the installation of these items to commence as soon as demolition of the damaged items are complete.”

Further preliminary inspection findings for the structure include:

  • To date, FDOT divers have inspected 202 underwater footings while top-side inspection teams have assessed 105 spans, 202 piers and 525 beams.
  • The number of spans requiring full replacement remains at five, and FDOT has identified an additional two that will require partial replacement.
  • FDOT will have to replace a number of beams and is still determining the specific number needing replacement.

The bridge will remain closed until further notice, according to FDOT. Motorists should continue to use all available detour routes, which include the Garcon Point Bridge and State Road 87. At this time, tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge have been suspended through 6 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23. Details about the detour routes, including graphics, FAQs and regular updates, can be found on the FDOT website.

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