The Bay Bridge project picks up speed as the new year begins

MacKenzie Kees

Opinions Editor

 This artist’s rendering shows the Pensacola side of the planned Bay Bridge. Photo courtesy of www.pensacolabaybridge.com

This artist’s rendering shows the Pensacola side of the planned Bay Bridge.
Photo courtesy of www.pensacolabaybridge.com

One reason many non-resident students come to UWF is Pensacola Beach’s beautiful emerald Gulf waters and powdered-sugar beaches. The easiest access to the beach is crossing a three-mile bridge.

The “Three-Mile Bridge,” or Pensacola Bay Bridge, is nearing the end of its 50-year design life, and contractors are already vying for the opportunity to construct its replacement, a nearly $500-million dollar project slated to begin in late 2016 or early 2017. A project that has been brewing since January 2011, reconstructing the Bay Bridge was deemed necessary when it failed to reach the proper sufficiency rank after its last inspection in 2010.

The structurally deficient Bay Bridge lacks a bicycle and pedestrian lane and is considered to be a safety hazard, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Other concerns published in the Pensacola Bay Bridge PD&E Study include a projected increase in average daily traffic from 59,200 vehicles per day to 68,500. This increase in future traffic demand will surpass the bridge’s current capacity threshold.

By July 2016, the FDOT will choose the project’s contractor out of the remaining five proposals submitted, according to FDOT’s timeline. If the contractor chosen completes the new southbound bridge within 860 calendar days, a $15 million dollar bonus will be awarded as a financial incentive to insure apt progress is made.

“It’s a chain of events that we’re looking to expedite so we can have the newer structure completed,” FDOT Spokesman Ian Satter told the “Pensacola News Journal.” (Taken from a PNJ story published on Oct. 14, 2015.)

Other modifications to come with the bridge include a new boat launch in Gulf Breeze’s Wayside Park and a ferry service connecting Pensacola to Santa Rosa Island.

“The numbers from the PD&E study indicate that the bridge would be 15-20 feet higher,” Gulf Breeze City Manager Edwin “Buzz” Eddy told the “Pensacola News Journal.” (Taken from a PNJ story published on Feb. 13, 2015.) Eddy said the new six-lane bridge would also be “twice as wide,” and “vehicles will be able to drive underneath the bridge.” This design concept attempts to create more space in order to alleviate the negative impacts the project may have for local shops near the bridge.

The Bay Bridge replacement project is expected to be one of the biggest road construction developments in the local area’s history. Providing important regional access for commuters, the Bay Bridge has been a crucial link between Gulf Breeze and Pensacola since its original conception in 1960.

Avoiding the bridge to take the nearest detour route to Gulf Breeze from Pensacola would add an extra 27 miles to the trip, which is impractical for commuters and residents alike. The new Bay Bridge will reduce delay times, so residents and commuters will rejoice.

For more information about the Pensacola Bay Bridge project, visit http://www.pensacolabaybridge.com/.