Bridge work begins
Brett Pielstick of the Eisman and Russo Engineering firm gave members of the Gulf Breeze Chamber an update Thursday, March 9 about the work currently underway on the $398,500,000 replacement Pensacola Bay Bridge and what we can expect over the course of the 1,408-day project.
Eisman and Russo is a firm hired by the construction engineers at Florida Department of Transportation. In the past few months, their firm has gone behind the FDOT crew to take their own soil samples to determine the stability of the areas where the pilings will be placed. Other pre-construction projects currently underway including siting utility locations and finalizing the bridge design.
One of the priorities is repairing the structurally deficient existing bridge. It must be reinforced to continue to handle traffic until February of 2019, when the first of the two spans will be complete. At that point, the existing bridge will be demolished and the second span will be constructed in its place while north and southbound traffic share space on the new bridge. Once the second span is complete, in July of 2020, northbound traffic and southbound traffic will have their own bridge with three lanes, pull off lanes and pedestrian walkway.
The contractor is aiming to win a $15 million bonus if work is completed in 860 days, by Sept. 19, 2019. The contract duration is 1,408 calendar days, during which time contractors must comply with environmental standards and maintain traffic flow.
Each bridge will accommodate three 12-foot travel lanes, ten-foot inside and outside shoulders, and a 10-foot multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.
On the Pensacola side, the bridge extends past the 17th Avenue interchange and on the Gulf Breeze side, the bridge will extend about to the Hampton Inn, effectively lengthening the bridge from 3.3 miles to 3.7 miles. Beneath the bridge on the Gulf Breeze side will provide parking facilities for the new Wayside Park, and U-turn access.
The majority of the activity will occur between June 1 to Aug. 31 when 30- by-30-inch concrete pilings will be driven into the soil to create the footer for the first new span. The time period was selected to keep from interfering with migration of sturgeon, manatees, small tooth sawfish and sea turtles. To avoid stunning the wildlife species, noise levels will be ramped up gradually and mitigated by bubble wrap. If a sturgeon is determined to be stunned, injured or dead, work will be halted.
The new bridge will be longer, higher and have fewer horizontal spans, reducing the “thump thump thump” you currently hear when traveling the current span across Pensacola Bay.
The current bridge is 50 feet high. The new bridge will be 65 feet and the top of the decorative arch will be 72 feet high.
The Horizontal channel clearance, now 125 feet, will increase to 150 feet. The main channel will increase to 375 feet across with no need for fenders. Pielstick noted that the reduction in pilings will improve water flow and flushing in Pensacola Bay.
The bridge supports will be cast in Pensacola to a “trophy” style, resembling a “Y” then transported to the site where it will be placed by a crane atop a footer. Each “trophy” weighs approximately 150 tons but the largest piece to position will be the 200-ton pedestrian path, which will be placed in one piece by a very large crane.
“Each bridge will have two units of these at each location. We will have four of these locations, each one supported on four piles, and that’s all for that low level segment,” Pielstick said.
The final design of the bridge has not been set but Pielstick said we can expect ambient lighting that can chance from blue to red to pink and green or undulate red, white and blue for the 4th of July.
“All lighting will selected so it’s not impactful for the turtles,” Pielstick said.
Shade structures along the pedestrian path will allow travelers a cool place to rest on a bench before continuing on their way.
While the bridge is being constructed parallel to the existing bridge, Road Rangers will be positioned at both ends of the current bridge to keep traffic flowing. They will be equipped with gasoline to refill empty tanks and can change tires or pick up debris from the roadways. They will be first onsite to assist in accidents. All lanes will remain open except for between 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. There will be active traffic management.
An Open House is planned for Tuesday, March 21 at the Pensacola Grand Hotel in Pensacola from 5:30 to 6:30 to view the bridge plans and renderings.
Questions: Where will the bridge be located?
The first span will be built parallel to the existing Pensacola Bay Bridge, then the existing bridge will be demolished and the second span will be built in its place.
When will construction begin?
Pre-construction activities began Sept. 19, 2016, and include core-drilling, surveys, siting utilities and design. Pile driving will begin June 1 and last until August 31 due to environmental restrictions.
When will it be complete?
Completion date for the first span will be Jan. 27, 2019. Completion date for the second span will be July 27, 2020.
What will happen to the Wayside Parks?
Wayside Parks will be closed to the public to accommodate construction equipment staging. Any trees that may be damaged will the relocated in the city and new vegetation will be planted after construction is complete.
What will happen to the Pensacola Fishing Bridge?
The Pensacola Fishing Bridge will remain open and intact.
How will traffic flow on the first replacement span?
The design is not complete but Pielstick says there will be modifications to allow as much room as possible for two lanes to flow southbound and two lanes to flow northbound. The new span will be about two feet narrower than the existing span. One of the considerations is having an alternating pull off lane, say every 1,000 feet, for emergencies. Also, he said the median will be much narrower than the current one on the existing Pensacola Bay Bridge, allowing for more width. Another possibility is a middle lane for emergency stops.
Will the Bridge Bar and Hampton Inn remain?
The bridge will not cause any of the businesses currently located on Gulf Breeze’s peninsula to close.
Will the higher bridge and longer ramp, put nearby businesses under the ramp level?
No. The bridge returns to grade near the dive shop, Pielstick said, but the retaining wall will remain until near the Hampton Inn.
Will there be overhead lighting on the new bridge?
Pielstick said safety is their number one priority so overhead lights will always be on and maintained.
On the Replacement Pensacola Bay Bridge
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21 Pensacola Grand Hotel 200 East Gregory Street Pensacola