Florida DOT works to keep traffic flowing while recovery efforts continue on Pensacola’s 3-Mile Bridge

Demolition of Damaged Sections
Crews work to remove damaged portions of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, popularly known as “Three-Mile Bridge,” which links Gulf Breeze and Pensacola, Florida. The structure was damaged by Hurricane Sally in mid-September. (Courtesy: Florida Department of Transportation)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Nearly a month after Hurricane Sally devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast region, demolition and recovery efforts continue on the Pensacola Bay Bridge, popularly known as “Three-Mile Bridge.” The bridge has been closed to traffic since mid-September.

At the end of September, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) released an update about the department’s efforts to prepare the bridge for reconstruction.

The design for permanent repairs and reestablishment of four lanes of traffic on the bridge with a focus on substructure repairs, which includes the piers, is in development. According to FDOT, the primary concern is ensuring durability and that the repairs do not cause a reduction in the bridge’s strength.

According to an Oct. 15 update from FDOT, progress at the bridge continues. One damaged span of the bridge has been removed while crews continue to carefully remove damaged portions from additional spans in order to minimize impacts to the existing structure. Two of the three barges under the bridge have also been removed, accelerating demolition efforts. To date, 15 of the 27 barges have been removed from the area.

As work on the bridge progresses, FDOT has worked to improve the traffic flow along the Pensacola Bay Bridge detour routes. To date, FDOT has:

  • Installed a new temporary traffic signal at the Interstate 10 westbound ramps at State Road 281;
  • Installed delineators to provide a free flow southbound movement from the Interstate 10 eastbound ramp onto southbound State Road 281;
  • Installed additional temporary traffic cameras to help improve travel time;
  • Relocated the Road Ranger service that was previously on the Pensacola Bay Bridge to the Garcon Point Bridge to help with minor incidents and to keep traffic flowing as much as possible;
  • Developed plans to temporarily widen 2,000 feet of northbound and southbound State Road 281 south of the Interstate 10 interchange; and
  • Made plans to temporarily widen the eastbound Interstate 10 off ramp at eastbound State Road 281 to two lanes to better facilitate traffic movement leaving the interstate.

FDOT is assessing the final total number of the spans and piers that will ultimately need to be replaced. The contractor has already fabricated 25 beams and the piers needed to begin repairs; in addition to constructing more replacement beams and piers at its offsite yard, the contractor has reached out to other facilities to assist in production.

Updated preliminary inspection findings 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.
  • A minimum of 12 pedestrian spans have been identified for replacement.
  • FDOT will have to replace a number of beams and is still determining the specific number needing replacement.

The U.S. Coast Guard has established a 500-yard buffer zone for all Pensacola Bay/Three-Mile Bridge construction activities. Vessels may use only low or idle speeds within the buffer zone. Due to the potential for underwater hazards, boaters are advised to use caution near the bridge. The navigational channel has been inspected and is free of hazards. For this reason, crossing beneath the bridge should be done only at the navigational channel.

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, October 23.

To keep the public apprised of details about the detour routes, including graphics, FAQs and the reconstruction process, FDOT has created a Pensacola Bay update page.

The Pensacola Bay Bridge has a targeted reopening date of early March 2021. Once repairs are complete, all four lanes will be open with no load restrictions.

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