Crashes snarl traffic on Bay Bridge
Any increase in traffic, the number of automobile breakdowns or accidents on Pensacola Bay Bridge can be explained by the annual rush of tourists during Spring Break, Deputy Chief of Police Sharon Armstrong says. The much-discussed bridge construction project that will be taking place over the next three years has not begun to contribute to any such difficulties, as far as the police department can tell.
Armstrong reminds local motorists that FDOT insists on a thorough safety program with all companies whose construction projects affect motorists. Skanska, the Swedish-based construction company that is the fifth largest in the world, is now moving forward on the local project, and it is a prime example of companies FDOT works with.
“It’s a very labor intensive process that they go through,” she said.
Ian Satter, public information officer for FDOT, echoed that assessment.
“Safety is paramount for us,” he said. “It’s number one in our department. We have a very active program with all construction companies to ensure the safety of motorists. We work with them, the Coast Guard, the EPA and other agencies. The plan is to keep traffic moving. When there is a crash on the bridge, the chances for a secondary crash increase.”
Satter said a free Road Ranger program will go into effect soon, with vehicles patrolling the bridge throughout the day, and especially during the peak hours for traffic. Rangers will perform a variety of services, including providing help with a flat tire or car problem and removing debris from the roadway, as needed. They will be at work along the corridor to keep traffic moving at all times.
In addition, a pair of tow trucks will be stationed on each side of the bridge, so if there is a crash or a broken down vehicle, they will be there for immediate assistance in clearing the site and opening it up to traffic as quickly as possible.
FDOT will also be using its Intelligent Transportation System’s live cameras that guarantee the ability to monitor traffic in real time so any type of assistance needed by motorists in trouble will be on the way immediately, Satter said.
Once construction actually begins next month, these efforts will all be in place. Right now, Skanska is in the preconstruction phase of staging equipment and materials and getting things ready. They have done some test work and preliminary surveying, Satter said, but there has been nothing that would disrupt the flow of traffic in any way at this point.
Motorists will begin seeing signs of potentially challenging situations in late May or early June, and that will be the time for them to become partners in making sure there is as little disruption as possible on the bridge.
Be vigilant when traveling through construction zones:
• Minimize distractions;
• Follow the speed limits in effect for the construction project area;
• Keep eyes on the road and not on activity associated with the project;
• Maintain a safe distance between your own and other cars at all times.