Ivan Caused Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Damage to Roads and Bridges

State officials say it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to repair the damage done to roads and bridges by Hurricane Ivan. One of the most expensive repairs will be to the Interstate 10 Bridge over Escambia Bay at Pensacola. It was seriously damaged by high waves.

At least one motorist who was on that bridge is unaccounted for, and the state is now catching heat for not closing the bridge.

Florida taxpayers can expect a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars to repair roads and bridges like the one damaged by Hurricane Ivan at Pensacola.

The I-10 bridge east of Pensacola was almost destroyed by the crashing waves. State Transportation Secretary Jose’ Abreu says the near-total failure of the structure caught him by surprise.

“Even though that bridge was probably built in the late 60s, I mean today, we would have built it higher, still it was about 15 feet from normal sea level and it has been way higher than that to do the damage that it did.

At least one trucker who tried to cross the bridge was still unaccounted for more than a day after it collapsed. The Florida Highway Patrol fears there may have been other vehicles on the bridge too.

FHP is catching some heat for not closing the I-10 bridge as they did do with other bridges around Florida during this summer of storms.

The official response from Col. Chris Knight is that drivers should have known better.

“I think it was very well-publicized, radio-wise, television, print media, that at a particular point, don’t be out, don’t be out on the roadways, and we hope people heed those warnings. Obviously in that particular case, they didn’t.”

The FHP says barricades warning motorists away would have only added to the dangers in high winds. In the meantime, transportation officials predict it could take a year or more to repair roads and bridges that took a direct hit.

It could be a year or more before repairs are complete to the I-10 bridge. DOT Secretary Jose’ Abreau says the upper part of the bridge needs major work, but the part below the water may still be useable.

“It looks like damage although structural in nature, seems to be at the deck area, the foundation is still okay. Now a couple of piers suffered some damage at the top, but the foundation seems to be solid. The scour, or erosion, at the bottom it seemed to have not taken its place."

Transportation officials say repairs to the bridge will cost at least $150 million. They hope to have a temporary bridge open within a few days.

In the meantime, divers have not located a trucker who went off the damaged bridge at the height of the storm. The cab of the truck was found in the mud under the water. Police say they have not ruled out the possibility that other motorists may have gone over the bridge as well.