At least seven stretches of the Pensacola Bay Bridge will have to be partially or completely replaced due to damage from bulk Skanska sandals, but as of now, there is no timeline for repairs, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
Several barges owned by Skanska USA, the contractor leading the $ 400 million bridge replacement project, collided with the Pensacola Bay Bridge after falling back during Hurricane Sally.
In a press release Thursday, FDOT said evaluations of structural damage are still in progress, but some Skanska sandals are still causing complications.
“Three of the contractor’s barges are still in or under the structure, and those barges will have to be removed with great care,” the statement said. “The contractor has prioritized removing barges and will work closely with FDOT to ensure the least possible amount of additional bridge damage in this effort.”
The bridge was closed to traffic shortly before the impact of Hurricane Sally on September 16, and passengers are currently redirected to bypass roads such as the Garcon Point Bridge and State Road 87.
FDOT’s statewide bridge expert team continues to examine and evaluate the Pensacola Bay Bridge, including the underwater infrastructure. According to the FDOT, “efforts are being made as quickly as possible, but comprehensively, as much as possible, but the exact timetable for completing the repairs is still unknown at this time.”
State Senator Doug Brooksson said at a press conference Thursday that his understanding is that FDOT will have a damage report and estimated timeline for repairs completed by next week.
While the damage assessment on the bridge continues, the FDOT Institution has directed the bridge designer to initiate the design for permanent repairs and re-creation of four traffic lanes.
“The position of the Florida Department of Transportation is that we don’t want a bridge that has been repaired,” Brooksson said. “We want a bridge that will last 75 years, so every repair is subject to the same engineering examination that the building we saw when the bridge was opened.”
Currently, there are five known bridge extensions that will require a full replacement, and FDOT has identified two others that will require partial replacement. The total number of spaces or sidewalks that will ultimately need to be replaced is unknown. FDOT will also have to replace a number of packages and still identify the exact number that needs to be replaced.
FDOT wrote that it understands that the contractor has some existing stock that will reduce the number of new parts that will need to be used for repairs. Additionally, FDOT directed Skanska to begin building more alternative beams and sidewalks in its outdoor yard.
“I can tell you that Skanska has lost significant equipment,” Brooksson said Thursday. “They are bringing in new equipment. They have definitely lost one of the largest arms of the small winch at the bottom of the bay now. But they are bringing in more equipment, and within a week, they will have more equipment than they had before the storm.”
The demolition of the affected areas of the bridge will begin over the next few days, and Skanska will provide additional resources to expedite the demolition, according to the National Defense Administration. Departments expect demolition progress to increase once barges are removed and additional resources arrive.
Besides the damage to the Pensacola Bay Bridge, Skanska boats were washed ashore at the Garcon Point Bridge, near the Escambia Bay Bridge, at the main access bridge to the Pensacola People and at 12 private estates along the Pensacola Coast and Escambia Bays.
“Skanska has informed me that they consider these 12 boats in private ownership directly responsible, and that they are in contact with these people,” Brooksson said. “They have a team on the ground that is now trying to negotiate with property owners how to remove their equipment and the compensation they feel they deserve.”
Skanska asked property owners affected by boats or other equipment during Hurricane Sally to contact them at email@example.com.
In total, Skanska confirmed that 22 of its boats had broken off during the storm. Although Skanska said in a statement that it had made “all appropriate preparations” based on the weather forecast in the days leading up to the storm, many citizens are filing lawsuits and demanding accountability from the construction company.
In its release, FDOT wrote that, at least as far as the bridge is concerned, “once the situation is fully assessed, and the damages fully understood, the appropriate parties will take responsibility for the repairs.
State Rep. Alex Andrade, responding to questions about Skanska’s liability during Thursday’s press conference, said he was not prepared to make any public statements until the bridge was fully evaluated.
“I think most people understand the cause of the damage to the bridge and who owns the boats,” he said. “So I think once the facts are publicly proven by experts and investigations, I think we will have the answers we need about that.”
Until the bridge is fixed, travelers can find details of the detours – including graphics, frequently asked questions, and regular updates – online at fdot.gov/PensacolaBay.
Passengers are encouraged to use all available detours, which include the Garcon Point Bridge and State Road 87, until repairs are made. At this time, tolls on Garcon Point Bridge are on hold until 6 a.m. on October 23.
“There is some concern,” Brooksson said. “People are really looking forward and asking what will happen in 30 days.” I can assure you that there is a valid plan. The governor’s position is that he does not want this to be the responsibility of the taxpayer. Therefore he expects the parties with obligations and those private entities (with supervision over the bridge) to come together and reach an agreement on how to deal with the payment of those fees or discounted payments. “
He added: “I think that this is going well, but if it is not resolved within 30 days, I have guarantees from the governor’s office that we will not place these fees on our citizens.”