BELLEAIR BEACH — A room-sized chunk of concrete fell off the underside of the new Belleair Beach Causeway Bridge three weeks ago and must be repaired before both sides of the bridge can open to traffic.
Project manager Tony Horrnik said weakened and misaligned reinforcing cables inside a section of a 75-foot concrete span on the northeastern end of the bridge gave way, causing a new 15- by 18-foot section of concrete to fall from the underside of the bridge — a process he called "spalling."
Crews were working on another section of the bridge at the time and heard a loud noise when the concrete hit land near the seawall of Belleair Boat Ramp Park. The park is closed and is being used as a staging area for construction equipment.
"No one was hurt. There were no injuries," Horrnik said.
The area of the bridge that was damaged is beneath automobile travel lanes, and the piece that fell off averages up to 6 inches deep, Horrnik said.
Engineers are still developing a repair plan, Horrnik said, but the repairs will be completed in time for the bridge opening in late April or early May.
The new "big" bridge, which replaces a 50-year-old drawbridge, is expected to last about 75 years and will rise 75 feet over the channel. Bridge features include: 12-foot automobile travel lanes in each direction, 8-foot sidewalks on each side and 10-foot shoulders on each side, which include designated 5-foot bicycle lanes.
The entire $72.2 million Belleair Beach Causeway Bridge project, which also includes a new smaller bridge to the west of the 530-foot main center span, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
"We are acting very swiftly on this," he said. "There has been a thorough investigation, and we want the highest level of quality control to ensure a like-new condition. The repair must last as long as the bridge."
The repaired concrete will include a combination of chemical bonding and steel reinforcement, he said. Engineers have determined that the integrity and strength of the remaining concrete slab was not compromised by the accident.
Horrnik said the cost of the repair has not been determined, but will be borne by the contractor, Johnson Brothers.