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Construction of new I-10 bridge to start in spring

A $325-million project to build a new Interstate 10 bridge in the western Panhandle to replace the one damaged by Hurricane Ivan is expected to begin this spring, federal and state officials said.

The bridge over Escambia Bay, connecting Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, was heavily damaged Sept. 16. Traffic has been restored on the two westbound lanes but is limited to a single eastbound lane.

Photographs of the bridge with a truck dangling over one of the missing sections symbolized Ivan's destruction across the northern Gulf Coast. Divers found the body of truck driver Roberto Molina Alvarado of Toppenish, Wash., in the bay where his cab landed.

About 8,000 trucks travel that stretch of I-10 daily along with thousands of commuters and other travelers.

New eastbound and westbound spans will have three traffic lanes and an emergency lane, said Howard Newman, project director for plan developer PBS & J of Orlando.

Completion of the eastbound span is expected by December 2006. Westbound lanes should be finished the following year.

High court rejects appeal on parental notification

TALLAHASSEE _ The state Supreme Court on Thursday squashed a motion filed Monday by abortion rights groups challenging a ballot measure voters approved in November.

Under the new constitutional amendment, the privacy rights of minors are limited to provide an exemption for a law, still to be passed, that would require that parents be told when their minor daughters seek abortions.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood argued that the measure, which won 65 percent of the vote, should be voided. Their motion said the Supreme Court overstepped its authority last fall when it rejected the ballot summary describing the amendment but let the full text of the measure go before voters.

In Thursday's brief unsigned order, the court ordered that the motion "be stricken as unauthorized."

A 1999 law that imposed a parental notification requirement was thrown out by the courts, which ruled that it violated the state Constitution's privacy provision.

Lawmakers are widely expected to pass a parental notice law in the two-month session that begins March 8.

_ Wire reports