PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) – The Pensacola Bay Bridge has reopened nearly eight months after being forced to close due to damage from Hurricane Sally.
The bridge closure forced many drivers to take hour-long detours down Garcon Point Bridge or Highway 87 to get to Gulf Breeze or Navarre.
“The drive was horrible. We just had a horrible time with the traffic and stuff that they had,” said Pensacola resident Dee Ballentine. “They had it all backed up.”
That should no longer be a problem for drivers, who can now take the Pensacola Bay Bridge. This makes many Pensacola drivers extremely happy.
“I was ecstatic (when I found out it was open). We don’t have to drive 30 minutes out of the way to get to Gulf Breeze or to the beach,” said Amy Glenn, a Ferry Pass resident. “We can get back to the restaurants that we loved going to a lot quicker and they can get here to help our restaurants that have been struggling.”
The majority of the bridge is open to four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, except for a two-lane, half-mile segment just west of the bridge’s arch while work to complete final repairs continues.
Some Pensacola residents have been worried about the bridge’s safety after having been rebuilt in eight months. State Representative Alex Andrade posted to Facebook Friday morning, saying he had made several laps around the bridge and ensured his constituents the bridge is safe.
“I think there’s a little bit of skepticism on the new bridge but overall I think it’s a good idea (to reopen it),” said Pensacola resident Michael Cook.
The bridge’s speed limit is temporarily set at 35 miles per hour while repairs are completed. There are emergency refuge areas 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 on 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 sight 24-hours a day on both ends of the bridge to alert drivers about the temporary restrictions.
At this time, tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge are suspended through June 6.