SURVEY: Pensacola Bay Bridge closure more stressful than pandemic, Hurricane Sally

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — Drivers will soon be able to use the Pensacola Bay Bridge once again. 

It’s been more than eight months since construction barges knocked out a section of the bridge, which required extensive restoration work. 

Those who commute to Gulf Breeze for work or leisure have had to use the Garcon Point Bridge or Highway 87 to get there, making the trip even longer.

Researchers at the University of West Florida have released results of a survey conducted to show the impacts of the bridge closure. The results showed the closure has resulted in more stress on a driver’s mental health and their wallets. 

Dr. Allison Green spoke to WKRG News 5 Thursday afternoon about the research. 

Green, Dr. Ata Atadil and undergraduate Genna Edwards conducted the survey in May. The trio collected data from more than 300 Escambia and Santa Rosa County residents impacted by the closure of the bridge while commuting to/from their place of employment. 

“Seventy-nine percent of respondents found that the bridge closure was quite or extremely stressful,” Green said. “Pandemic? Stressful. Hurricane Sally? Stressful. But the bridge closure was the most stressful out of those three.”

Green lives in Gulf Breeze and was personally affected by the closure, which led to her wanting to conduct the survey.

“I live in Gulf Breeze proper and I am deeply affected by it,” Green said. “I said, ‘I have to capture this,’ because my stress level is through the roof.” 

The results also showed the majority of the respondents’ drive times to work at least doubled and most weren’t compensated for it. 

“That’s really important for organizations to know,” Green said. “Managers. Supervisors. If people are doing more commuting time, they might be more stressful and they may not have patience.” 

Green says she hopes her research serves as a time capsule for the impact of the bridge’s closure on the local community. 

“It will be getting better and hopefully the bridge (reopening) is going to solve all of our congestion problems,” she said. “But it’s mostly to shine a light on the local community and how everyone came together and how we’re kind of in it together.” 

Below is a recap of the survey’s results: 

  • Respondents found it even more stressful than COVID-19 global pandemic and Hurricane Sally. More specifically, 79% of the respondents found the bridge closure quite or extremely stressful.
  • While the commute to work was less than 30 minutes for the majority (74%) before the bridge repair, the commute lasted for over 60 minutes, on average, for the majority (59%) during the bridge repair.
  • 82% said that they commuted 20 or fewer miles per day over the bridge before its repair, whereas 64% of the respondents reported commuting over 30 miles during the bridge repair. 
  • 94% of the respondents felt stressed with regard to their commute to the workplace. 
  • Furthermore, 61% of the study participants were not compensated for the additional mileage/gas by their work.
  • 88% of the respondents stressed that they have less of a work-life balance since the bridge closure.
  • On a positive note, 64% of the respondents stated that their work has been able to create a flexible schedule. 
  • Moreover, 88% of the respondents indicated that the leaders in their work organizations were aware of the additional stress of the commute.

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