FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Florida Department of Transportation reopened the north and southbound lanes of the US-41 Caloosahatchee Bridge in Fort Myers on Wednesday.
According to a press release from FDOT, crews made repairs to the approach slabs and said it was caused by a "minor washout."
FDOT closed the bridge on Tuesday as crews reviewed potential impacts to the corridor.
FDOT refused to do an interview on Wednesday about the closure. We spoke with Dr. Ashraf Badir, a civil engineering professor at Florida Coast University, asking him what Hurricane Ian could've done to the approach slab.
"The soil, when it gets flooded with water, the water causes the soil to increase in volume," he explained. "Then after the weather dries, the dry period, the soil will contract back, which will create some voids."
Those voids were not confirmed by FDOT. The press release did not explain what kind of damage occurred.
"If it’s the soil underneath the slab that is carrying the slab that has eroded, they will maybe put more soil in it and put more material and restore it," Badir said.
FDOT said in the press release it used fill material to fix the approach slabs. In a previous conversation with FDOT, a spokesperson said they did inspect the bridges after the hurricane.
Badir says he does not believe approach slabs are included in that inspection. However, we are waiting to confirm that with FDOT.
"The approach slab is below the ground, so you cannot inspect it," Badir said. "You have to remove what is about it, so it’s not part of that."
The Fort Myers Police Department said the bridge would be closed for 3-7 days. However, FDOT would not confirm that on Tuesday.
"It depends on the amount of damage. I would guess five days, plus or minus," Badir said.
A spokesperson with FDOT on Tuesday said the concern was not the bridge itself, it's the approach slabs north of the bridge due to washout after Hurricane Ian.
The bridge closure caused a lot of traffic delays and reroutes.
"It took me over an hour delay easily to get home from La Belle yesterday," said Marc Forman, who lives near the bridge. "It was a big surprise to everyone."
It's still not clear what drew FDOT's attention to the approach slabs. We have filed several records requests, asking for inspection reports. FDOT says it's working to fill our request.