SHALIMAR — The Florida Department of Transportation is working with a contractor to complete a plan to make permanent repairs to the Mid-Bay Bridge, but does not have a timeline yet, FDOT District 3 spokesman Ian Satter said Thursday.
“We’re working on the plan as quickly as we can,” Satter said.
The 3.6-mile-long, two-lane toll bridge that crosses Choctawhatchee Bay between Bluewater Bay and Destin was closed Jan. 8 after a routine FDOT inspection. It found problems with some post-tensioning tendons, which are steel cables that reinforce the concrete bridge.
Following temporary repairs, the bridge reopened Jan. 15 to two-axle vehicles such as cars, trucks, school buses and limited EMS and first-responder equipment. However, semitrailers and commercial vehicles still must use alternate routes until the permanent repairs are completed.
Deteriorating bridge tendons will be replaced as part of the months-long permanent repair project, which could cost $4 million to $5 million, Mid-Bay Bridge Authority Executive Director Van Fuller said at Tuesday's County Commission meeting in Shalimar.
The bridge is a segmental span that opened in 1993. It has 141 spans, with each one supported by at least six of the post-tensioning tendons, Fuller said.
“Of the 912 tendons in the bridge, we have eight that are problematic,” he told the commission.
During the permanent repair project, the bridge occasionally will be closed overnight when there is very little traffic, Fuller said.
Satter said the dates of the closures and the exact restrictions on traffic will be known after the contract for the project is finalized.
The Bridge Authority and FDOT have agreed to take certain measures to help prevent another total bridge shutdown. For example, walk-through inspections of the bridge will be conducted monthly and vibration testing of all of its tendons will be performed annually, Fuller said.
“Safety comes first for our citizens,” Bridge Authority Board Chairman James Neilson told the commission. “Nobody wants to put anybody in harm’s way.”
“Increasing the monitoring is good and important," Commissioner Nathan Boyles said, "but I think the ultimate goal is to have a bridge that stands the test of time and doesn’t need to be shut down to have tendons replaced.”
When the bridge closed, Fuller told the Daily News that the bridge repairs — which are managed and funded by FDOT — would not affect toll costs.
The “saving grace” of the recent bridge closure was that it did not occur during the busy tourist season, Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel said.