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Florida repairs hurricane-damaged bridge

PENSACOLA, Fla.—In mid-September, the Escambia Bay Bridge, located on Interstate 10 in the Florida Panhandle, suffered major damage courtesy of Hurricane Ivan—one of four major storms to strike Florida during recent weeks.

The storm caused a quarter-mile section of eastbound portion of the bridge to collapse, leaving one of the state’s major east-west thoroughfares out of commission. A truck driver who tried to cross the bridge during the storm was killed during the collapse.

A post-hurricane inspection of the bridge showed that 3,300 feet of the bridge’s superstructure had dropped into the bay, more than 24 piles bents were destroyed, and numerous superstructure spans had to be repositioned.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) selected the team of Gilbert Southern/Massman-Parsons to perform the emergency repairs necessary to reopen the bridge. Using the design-build procurement method, the westbound structure wa s reopened to two-way traffic in 17 days, seve n days ahead of the contracted schedule.

FDOT signed a $26.4 million emergency contract with the joint venture on Sept. 18, and the contractor began foundation work by driving 28 new piles to support the roadway. The team then lifted existing spans off the eastbound bridge and placed them on missing sections of the westbound bridge. Misaligned spans on the westbound side were put into proper alignment.

With emergency repairs complete on the westbound bridge, work is slated to begin on the more severely damaged eastbound struct ure. The contractor will repair the eastbound bridge with existing spans and alternating temporary panel bridges—FDOT owns more than 6,000 linear feet of prefabricated modular steel bridges. That portion of the bridge is expected to be open to traffic in less than the required 90 days after notice-to-proceed.

"It looked like it could have taken months to reopen, but thanks to both FDOT staff and the contractor’s team working around the clock, these temporary repairs were made in just 17 days," said FDOT Secretary Jose Abreu.

"Time is money," he noted. "That’s why we offer bonus clauses in our contracts to get the job done as soon as possible." Under the terms of the first phase of the emergency contract, the joint venture was subject to an incentive-disincentive clause of $250,000 a day to get the job done within 24 days.

Once emergency repairs are completed, FDOT officials will turn their attention to building a new, permanent structure across Escambia Bay.