Florida’s Pensacola Bay Bridge slated for phased reopening starting in March

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Pensacola Bay Bridge January 2021
In this January photo, crews work to repair Florida’s Pensacola Bay Bridge, which sustained heavy damage from Hurricane Sally last September. (Courtesy: Florida Department of Transportation)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — After a recent assessment of the repairs to the Pensacola Bay Bridge, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) on Feb. 18 announced its plan to reopen the Pensacola Bay Bridge in phases, beginning with restoring two lanes of traffic in March 2021.

The bridge has been closed since September after sustaining heavy damage during Hurricane Sally.

A combination of adverse weather and unexpected obstructions on the seabed of Pensacola Bay have impacted the original plan to open four lanes of traffic. Over the course of the repairs, crews demobilized twice in October 2020 for Hurricanes Delta and Zeta, and work was slowed several days by high winds and heavy rains. Because crews are working with soil and other hidden features in the earth, unforeseen complications can be encountered. The phased reopening makes weather-related and unforeseen conditions more manageable by removing many of the in-water components from the first phase schedule.

“FDOT understands that this has been a tough time for Pensacola and Gulf Breeze residents, and has been laser-focused on reconnecting these communities as safely and quickly as possible,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault. “We will continue to work with the contractor to ensure the final repairs are completed by Memorial Day and at a superior level of quality so it may serve these communities for decades to come.”

The first phase will open two lanes of traffic (one in each direction) for the first 4,000 feet starting from the Pensacola side. The remaining 2-plus miles of the bridge will be open to four lanes of traffic (two in each direction). During this initial phase, the speed limit will be temporarily set at 35 mph, and emergency refuge areas will be available on the bridge.

To quickly clear travel lanes following vehicle incidents, assist drivers in the event of mechanical breakdowns, and keep the bridge free of debris, FDOT’s Road Ranger Service Patrol will be stationed at each end of the bridge from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekends and major holidays. At other times, at least one unit will be on call and available. Law enforcement will also be on site 24 hours a day on both ends of the bridge to alert drivers about the temporary restrictions.

The second phase, which consists of opening the final 4,000 feet of the bridge to four lanes of traffic, is expected to be complete by Memorial Day. The entire Pensacola Bay Bridge Project has an anticipated completion date of January 2022.

The phased approach allows traffic to resume on the bridge in order to provide mobility and connectivity on U.S. 98 between Escambia and Santa Rosa counties while FDOT’s contractors continue repair efforts. An animation of the Pensacola Bay Bridge phased opening can be found here.

Motorists should continue to use all available detour routes, which still includes the Garcon Point Bridge and State Road 87. At this time, tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge have been suspended through Friday, March 12. Details on the detour routes, including graphics, FAQs and regular updates can be found here.

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