For the first time since January 2006, both spans of the John's Pass Bridge were open this morning.
The new $77 million drawbridge isn't quite finished yet. Some cleanup work and finishing touches remain to be done. But all four lanes should remain open on the span between Treasure Island and Madeira Beach.
"We should wrap it up by the end of the year if not sooner," said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation. "We're still working on a fender system to protect the bridge piers in the water. There will be another layer of asphalt, and we're working on painting the bridge."
The bridge construction project has been a traffic bottleneck on Gulf Boulevard for four years. About 17,000 drivers and pedestrians cross the bridge daily.
The old twin-span drawbridge, which was built in 1971, had to be replaced because swift currents in John's Pass were undermining its pilings. FDOT replaced the southbound span between 2006 and 2008, then went to work on the northbound span.
"There might be a possible lane closure in the future when they clean up or do final touches," Carson said, but those closures aren't expected to last long.
The replacement bridge is about 8 feet higher than the old one, so it will not need to be opened for boats quite as often, which should limit stops for traffic on the bridge.
— Mike Brassfield, Times staff writer