BELLEAIR BEACH — The Belleair Causeway Bridge will be completely closed to traffic July 26 in a move that officials say could significantly reduce the time needed to complete construction of the new bridge.
"We are closing the causeway to shift traffic to the north side of the newly constructed relief bridge," explained Tony Horrnik, project manager for the county public works department.
The causeway will close at 7 p.m. July 26 and will reopen to traffic 24 hours later at 7 p.m. July 27, when motorists will be driving over the north half of the new relief bridge.
The complete closure was proposed by the project contractor to reduce future traffic delays caused by construction.
"While this closure is a temporary inconvenience, it will significantly decrease the need for future one-lane closures on the relief bridge," Horrnik said. "The 24-hour closure will keep construction time as short as possible, keep workers and motorists safer during construction, and reduce the number of lane closures that would otherwise have been necessary to complete construction of the new relief bridge."
When completed, the $72.2-million, fixed span bridge will rise 74 feet above the Intracoastal Waterway.
The project includes several public leisure enhancements: water access, docks, a reconstructed boat ramp facility, a dog beach and parking.
The north side of the bridge will have several floating docks and a new water access area for vehicles that is ideal for loading. The 300- by 28-foot water access area will be laid with articulated block, allowing grass to grow through for a more natural environment.
A new parking area will be constructed on the east side of the causeway, next to the future bait house concession.
"The project is now about 50 percent completed," Horrnik said. "All 30 piers and the two end bents have been erected, and the last 30 feet of the east approach are nearly finished. Work on the northern half of the relief bridge, including slabs, is wrapping up.
"The project is on time and on budget."
Construction of one-quarter of a mile of the road is using an innovative incremental launch method, the first to be used on a concrete structure. Horrnik likens it to a slow rocket launch.
The bridge is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009.