The State Road 200 bridge at the Citrus-Marion county line is safe for travel, state transportation officials reiterated Thursday, a day after closing the bridge because of dangerous floodwaters and then reopening it.
In concert with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Citrus County Sheriff's Office blocked at least one lane of the bridge Wednesday evening after preliminary tests revealed that material around the bridge's supports might have been "scoured" or scrubbed away by the raging floodwaters of the Withlacoochee River. The current was too rough for DOT divers to investigate more closely, so the bridge was closed indefinitely pending more tests.
However, DOT engineering contractors were able to study the bridge's supports late Wednesday. They ruled that the bridge was secure, and the roadblock was lifted after only an hour.
"We're just going to monitor it once a day or twice a day," DOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said Thursday, "and send divers down as soon as the waters recede."
The Withlacoochee River measured 10.83 feet deep at Holder on Thursday afternoon, nearly 3 feet above the flood stage, according to the National Weather Service.
The brief closure of the SR 200 bridge led to the arrest of an Ocala man who authorities say blew through the roadblock, determined to get across the bridge, then yelled obscenities at a Florida Highway Patrol trooper and a crowd of people before speeding off in his vehicle.
Paul Kruger Jr., 10840 SW 62nd Ave., Ocala, was arrested on charges of attempting to elude a police officer, breach of the peace, failure to obey police and reckless driving, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Kruger, 23, drove past several message boards and a large DOT truck with a flashing arrow pointing out the traffic detour from SR 200 to County Road 39, troopers said.
These signs should have been enough to warn Kruger about the bridge closure, troopers said, but he continued driving toward the bridge, weaving among four emergency vehicles parked with their flashers on in the middle of SR 200, troopers said.
A Highway Patrol trooper saw Kruger drive through the roadblock, heading north toward the bridge, which was closed while officials inspected it for flood damage.
The trooper, who was not in his patrol car, yelled at Kruger and started running toward Kruger's vehicle, according to the report.
The trooper told Kruger that the road was closed, and he'd just driven through a roadblock. Kruger replied that he was just trying to get home and didn't realize the road was closed, according to the report.
Kruger pulled his vehicle into a nearby gas station parking lot, where the trooper issued him a careless driving citation. A large crowd was gathered at the gas station, watching the roadblock. They were curious to find out what happened to the bridge, and the trooper walked over to tell them the bridge was closed for inspection.
While the trooper spoke to the crowd, which included several children, Kruger yelled out obscenities from his vehicle, cursing at the trooper and threatening him, according to the report.
The trooper yelled back, telling Kruger to be quiet. Kruger then left the parking lot, speeding along CR 39, the trooper said. Another Florida Highway Patrol trooper stopped Kruger, arrested him and took him to the county jail, where his bail was set at $5,500. He remained at the jail Thursday afternoon.
Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansicklesptimes.com.