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I-10 bridge target: 2-laner in 3 weeks

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta on Tuesday saw Hurricane Ivan's damage to a major interstate highway and delivered the first installment of federal money to get cars, planes and trucks moving again in the Florida Panhandle.

Meanwhile, Florida officials promised to have two lanes of an Interstate 10 bridge over Escambia Bay open in three weeks, and four lanes open in three months. The state is likely to eventually build a new bridge.

Mineta was ferried to the I-10 bridge to see the damage and hear an engineer's explanation of what happened. Water more than 20 feet high pushed roadway sections off their supports and into the bay as Ivan came ashore Thursday.

A truck driver on the bridge died when his cab fell into the bay.

With the link across the bay broken and Pensacola's only interstate cut in half, traffic has been a nightmare. Another bridge farther north, on U.S. 90, also was damaged and is one lane each way.

Mineta announced that the federal government will make $2-million available to help the state fix the bridge. Work has already begun; a contractor's crews were on the bridge Tuesday.

The bridge is a vital link on an interstate that goes across the southern United States from California to Jacksonville. The damage forces major detours for trucks bringing products, including relief supplies, to Pensacola.

A fix to one side of the bridge allowing a lane in each direction, will cost about $26-million, state officials said. Officials will then create a wider, temporary bridge before eventually replacing the whole thing for more than $150-million.

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