Orion Marine Construction opened one lane on the South Bridge Tuesday right on time at 1:56 p.m. today.
"It's a historic Boca Grande day," said Jim Cooper, Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority executive director. "It's a red letter day."
Cooper and GIBA Chairman David Hayes were in the first citizen vehicle allowed to cross the bridge.
David Hayes, Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority chairman, drives GIBA executive director Jim cooper across the South Bridge. The pair were the first to cross other than construction crew personnel.
"Nice day!," Hayes exclaimed from his SUV.
The South Bridge opened with no pomp or ceremony. A more formal opening will be scheduled later, Cooper said.
Motorists will now be limited to one lane of the new bridge for about one month.
Bridge construction keys
Prime fixed-bridge contractor: Orion Marine Construction of Tampa
Start: Construction began March 12, 2012, on Center and South fixed bridges
South Bridge completion: One lane open Jan. 22. March 2013
Center Bridge completion: December 2013
Swing Bridge completion: January 2016
There will be a temporary detour route only applies to the families living around the lake on Gulf Shore Drive. The north exit to Gulf Shores Drive is now temporarily closed, so all families using Gulf Shore Drive during single-lane operations will need to use the south exit.
Upon completion of the project in late March, an asphalt layer will be added to smooth the final surface and correct this minor flaw, Cooper said.
Flagmen will be used with two new traffic signals at each end of the new South Bridge at least through Feb. 21. One message board set near North Village and another set about 1,500 feet prior to the north end of the bridge will offer the latest information updates.
Thirteen nights of work are scheduled during the 30-day single-lane period.
Construction for all bridges is nearing the halfway point. GIBA reported Jan. 16 on Day 310 of the 638-day project that Orion Marine Construction crews have the tri-bridge project 48 percent complete.
The finish date for the new South Bridge remains March 2013, completion for the 800-foot-long Center Bridge remains December 2013 and the Swing Bridge should be done by January 2016.
South Bridge progress notes
Asphalt paving complete Jan. 9.
Bridge painting set for Jan. 9-15.
North end roadway nearly finished.
New bridge rail embedded lighting for the 5-foot pedestrian sidewalk completed.
Center Bridge progress notes
Orion crews have formed concrete pedestal pads for I-beams to sit upon. Finish work on other Center Bridge structures is being completed.
I-Beam work has begun. Beams are custom-engineered for the GIBA to support the final traffic deck. There are six spans with four beams supporting the new deck under each span. Each span length is 137 feet long by 63 inches tall.