It's all downhill from here for the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority fixed bridge project.
Jim Cooper, Gasparilla Island Bridge authority executive director, said Orion Marine reached the halfway point of construction when it opened the single lane on the South Bridge Jan. 22.
"Good news," Cooper said. "At the 50-percent time point, Orion remains on schedule and slightly under budget."
Moments before the South Bridge opened Jan. 22, cars were still moving on the detour bridge to the right of the orange barrels.
Cooper was ebullient over the new South Bridge, which will be finished one month ahead of schedule.
" Jan 22, 2103, was an historic day for GIBA, when at 1:56 p.m. Orion officially opened our new South Bridge for one-way traffic with signals at both ends controlling the traffic," he said.
Less happy news broke earlier this week.
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: First lane opened Jan. 22, completion Feb. 22
Center Bridge completion: December 2013
Swing Bridge completion: January 2016
GIBA will conduct a special board meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Woman's Club Room at the Boca Grande Community Center to address the formal protest letter received from Orion Construction regarding the Swing Bridge construction project.
The GIBA Board has accepted the $17,874,503 bid of GLF Construction Corp. of Miami over the $18,755,840 bid from Orion Marine Construction of Tampa.
The protest follows a GIBA vote reversal Jan. 15 when the GIBA Board voted 4-1 to accept the GLF bid - with only GIBA Chairman David Hayes dissenting - roughly 10 weeks after a 4-0 GIBA Board vote Nov. 2 to reject all five bids received.
When finished Feb. 22, the two-lane elevated roadway on the south end of the new bridge will connect to the GIBA causeway to allow full time tow-lane traffic with no signals or speed bumps required.
The new South Bridge has two 11-foot wide traffic lanes, just like the old bridge, but it will have two new safety features: a 4- foot wide Florida Department of Transportation traffic shoulder, which can accommodate bicycle traffic, and a Wyoming rail-protected 5-foot-wide pedestrian sidewalk connecting Cole Island to north Gasparilla Island.
Two traffic signals will regulate traffic on the new South Bridge at least through Feb. 21. Thirteen nights of work are scheduled during the 30-day single-lane construction period.
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.