A steady stream of cars made their way across the toll bridge as it reopened Wednesday morning, accompanied by the cheers of toll-both workers. The FDOT had said as late as Tuesday afternoon that the bridge was not expected to reopen until sometime Wednesday evening.

DESTIN — The Mid-Bay Bridge, closed for more than a week as Florida Department of Transportation crews and contractors made emergency repairs to damaged steel cables, opened to some traffic at 11 a.m. Wednesday, ahead of when the FDOT had indicated it would reopen.

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A steady stream of cars made their way across the toll bridge as it reopened Wednesday morning, accompanied by the cheers of toll-both workers. The FDOT had said as late as Tuesday afternoon that the bridge was not expected to reopen until sometime Wednesday evening.

Until more extensive repairs can be made, traffic will be limited to two-axle vehicles including cars, trucks, SUVs, school buses and limited EMS and first responder equipment. Semi-trucks and commercial vehicles will be required to use alternate routes until permanent repairs to the Mid-Bay Bridge are complete. Variable message boards will be placed on both ends of the bridge to alert drivers about the temporary restrictions.

FDOT engineers and Mid-Bay Bridge Authority consultants have inspected the bridge and performed tests to verify that the bridge is structurally sound, according to a press release from the agency.

The bridge had been closed since Tuesday evening, after a routine inspection revealed problems with the post-tensioning steel cables installed along the length of the span.

 

FDOT officials were not immediately available Wednesday for comment on how long it will be before the bridge is open to all traffic. Prior to the Mid-Bay Bridge's reopening on Wednesday, FDOT crews and contractors worked 16-hour days, in two shifts, to get the bridge opened to most two-axle vehicles.

As a result of the more than week-long closure, lost toll collections totaled an estimated $275,000, according to Van Fuller, executive director of the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority.

"We were fortunate that January is a light traffic month," Fuller said.

The most recent round of lost toll revenue comes on the heels of the suspension of tolls on the Mid-Bay Bridge in October. Then-Gov. Rick Scott suspended tolls on a number of roads and bridges across Northwest Florida as Hurricane Michael approached, and in the aftermath of the storm.

In all, tolls were suspended on the Mid-Bay Bridge for 11 days, Fuller said, precipitating a loss of $750,000 in toll revenue.

Acknowledging that the revenue losses were the result of addressing public safety concerns, they nonetheless represented "a big hit," Fuller said.

Both the toll suspension and the bridge closure came in the same fiscal year, representing a total revenue loss of more than $1 million. Toll revenues cover the debt service on the Mid-Bay Bridge, which will be $20 million for this fiscal year, Fuller said. In addition, toll revenue covers payments to FDOT for operating and maintaining the Mid-Bay Bridge.

Fuller could not say Wednesday how long it might be before FDOT has the Mid-Bay Bridge fully repaired. The agency is still working out those details with contractors, according to Fuller.