FDOT Starts Demo on Pensacola Bay Bridge


Last week, the Florida Department of Transportation announced that it had begun demolition efforts on the damaged areas of the Pensacola Bay Bridge after weathering Hurricane Sally.

Over the course of the storm, it was reported that 22 of Skanska USA’s Civil Southeast divisions barges broke free, causing damage to various public and private property.

Bridge vs. Barge

In anticipation that Hurricane Sally would make landfall some 200 miles west of Pensacola, contractor and design-build team Skanska USA hadn’t planned to move its construction equipment but told Engineering News-Record that it had made all appropriate pre-storm preparations. However, when Hurricane Sally unexpectedly changed her course in the final hours of approaching land, it was too late to take additional action.

As a result, the Category 2 hurricane landed just 30 miles west of the Pensacola Bay Bridge (also known as the Three Mile Bridge) replacement project site, causing the dislodge of several barges and other construction equipment.

One of the worst impacts, Pensacola News Journal writes, was a crane that passed under the Three Mile Bridge, smashing through the surface of the road from beneath, destroying the span. While the structure was closed immediately following the barge impact on Tuesday morning, it was reported that the bridge suffered a second impact the following day. Upon preliminary damage assessments, FDOT has determined that at least five of the 105 spans are irreparable and will have to be reconstructed.

The Garcon Point Bridge was also affected by a dislodged barge and was also closed.

A few days later, however, inspectors discovered that damages to the Pensacola Bay Bridge were worse than previously expected. During a preliminary inspection, crews found that:

  • About 30 spans were impacted from total collapse to minor damage;
  • At least four bridge piers rotated due to barge impact (which can result in an uneven level of stress on the span, potentially requiring additional repair work); and
  • At least one pier suffered cracked pilings.

While FDOT’s statewide team of bridge experts are nearing conclusions of further inspection and assessments of the structure, they released additional information on the experienced damages. Thus far, the Department reports that a survey of the piers and topside inspections have been completed along with most of the underwater footings.

Further inspection findings include:

  • To date, FDOT divers have inspected 202 underwater footings while top side inspection teams have assessed 105 spans, 202 piers and 525 beams;
  • The number of spans requiring full replacement remains at five and FDOT has identified an additional two that will require partial replacement; and
  • FDOT will have to replace a number of beams and is still determining the specific number needing replacement.

Next Steps

According to FDOT, current priority demolition efforts are focused on areas that need cleared for dive access in order to examine the final 22 footings below the waterline.

However, three of Skanska’s barges remain on or under the structure, which will have to be removed with great caution. While the contractor has prioritized the barge removal and is reported to be working closely with FDOT to ensure the least amount of additional damage possible to the bridge in its efforts, they are also utilizing additional resources to expedite demolition.

While a total number of spans/piers needing replacement has yet to be finalized, Skanska has already fabricated 25 beams, various piers and other replacement beams and piers at its offsite yard needed to begin repair efforts. The contractor has also reached out to other facilities to assist in production.

In having the materials readily available, crews anticipate immediate installation once demolition has commenced.

FDOT adds that a design is underway for permanent repairs and the reestablishment of four lanes of traffic on the bridge. “Durability, and ensuring there is absolutely no reduction in the bridge’s strength as a result of the repairs, remains paramount in the design plans,” said the agency.

The Pensacola Bay Bridge will remain closed until further notice during demolition and repairs. Once a full assessment of the situation has been completed and damages are fully understood, FDOT plans to hold appropriate parties accountable for the repairs.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); Health and safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Project Management; Quality Control; Rehabilitation/Repair; Safety

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