At least seven spans of the Pensacola Bay Bridge will have to be partially or fully replaced due to damage from loose Skanska barges, but as of yet there is no timeline for the repairs, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
Several barges owned by Skanska USA, the contractor leading a $400 million bridge replacement project, collided with the Pensacola Bay Bridge after coming unmoored during Hurricane Sally.
In a news release Thursday, FDOT said assessments of the damage to the structure are still ongoing, but that some of Skanska's barges were still creating complications.
"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 release said. "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."
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The bridge has been closed to traffic since since shortly before Hurricane Sally made impact Sept. 16, and currently commuters are being rerouted to detours such as Garcon Point Bridge and State Road 87.
FDOT's statewide team of bridge experts continues to inspect and assess the Pensacola Bay Bridge, including the substructure that is located underwater, to the department. The efforts are being done as quickly, but thoroughly, as possible, but the exact timeline for completion of repairs remains unknown at this time.
While the damage assessment is continuing on the bridge, FDOT has the directed the bridge designer to begin the design for the permanent repairs and reestablishment of four lanes of traffic.
"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," FDOT wrote.
Currently, there are five known spans of the bridge that will require a full replacement, and FDOT has identified an additional two that will require partial replacement. The total number of the spans or piers that will ultimately need to be replaced is unknown. FDOT will also have to replace a number of beams and is still determining the specific number needing replacement.
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FDOT wrote it is aware the contractor has some existing inventory that will reduce how many new parts will need to be used for the repairs. In addition, FDOT has directed Skanska to begin constructing more replacement beams and piers at its offsite yard.
The demolition of the damaged areas of the bridge will begin over the next few days, and Skanska is bringing in additional resources to expedite demolition, according to FDOT. The departments expects the demolition progress to increase once the barges are removed and the additional resources arrive.
The bridge closure is still anticipated to be for an extended period of time. A more specific estimate and impacts to the current construction schedule will be known once the full assessment and repair plan are determined.
"Once the situation is fully assessed, and damages are fully understood, appropriate parties will be held responsible for the repairs," FDOT wrote.
Response from Skanska: Hurricane Sally: Skanska says removing barges before storm was neither 'safe nor feasible'
Beyond the damage to Pensacola Bridge, Skanska barges have washed up and come ashore at the Garcon Point Bridge, near the Escambia Bay Bridge, at the main access bridge and at 12 private properties along the coast of the Pensacola and Escambia bays.
In total, Skanska has confirmed 22 of its of its barges got loose during the storm. Although Skanska said in a statement that it made "all appropriate preparations" based on weather forecasts in the days leading up to the storm, many citizens are launching lawsuits and clamoring for the construction company to be held accountable.
In its release, FDOT said its understanding is Skanska has dispatched a community outreach team and insurance claim specialists to assist impacted property owners. The contractor has asked property owners impacted by Skanska’s barges or other equipment during Hurricane Sally to contact them at email@example.com.
Details on the detour routes, including graphics, FAQs, and regular updates can be found online at fdot.gov/PensacolaBayy. Members of the public wishing to receive these updates can choose to subscribe by providing their email address on this website as well.
Commuters are encouraged to use all available detour routes, which include the Garcon Point Bridge and State Road 87, until the repairs are in place. At this time, tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge have been suspended through 6 a.m. Oct. 23.
Kevin Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8527.
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