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Bridges back open after Ian

20 days after Hurricane Ian slammed into Southwest Florida, all county run bridges have reopened
Pine Island Bridge
Posted at 4:52 PM, Oct 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-19 04:57:57-04

Less than three weeks after Hurricane Ian slammed into southwest Florida, every county run bridge in Lee, Charlotte and Collier Counties have reopened to some traffic.

Tuesday, the last four bridges in Lee County reopened, Big Carlos Pass, New Pass, Big Hickory and Little Carlos Pass, as FDOT allowed essential personnel to drive over the four bridges that connect Bonita Beach to Fort Myers Beach.

Residents and their hired contractors will be allowed to cross the bridges starting Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Also on Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis hinted that the Sanibel Causeway, which is expected to allow resident travel starting on Friday, may reopen sooner than expected.

“Our view is, set an ambitious goal and try to beat the goal. And that’s what we’ve done here,” said DeSantis.

No exact time has been set for the reopening of the causeway.

The bridge, which was destroyed in three parts, reopened to a convoy of utility trucks last week.

“Life is going to be different. But we need to bring our families back here,” said Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith.

The Matlacha Pass Bridge which connects Pine Island to Cape Coral reopened with a temporary bridge last week.

Tuesday, DeSantis announced most of the island has had power restored.

“To say less than three weeks later you would have the bridge repaired and the power restored, I don’t think a lot of people would have taken that bet,” DeSantis said.

Dr. Atorod Azizinamini, a world-renowned expert on bridge engineering at Florida International University, says the bridges are safe for drivers.

“The challenging part is going to be the parts under the water, under the foundations, those are the challenging ones,” Azizinamini said.

The bridges may connect the islands to the mainland physically, but mentally they also represent some of the first steps as Southwest Florida recovers and rebuilds from Hurricane Ian.