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UWF Study Finds Bridge Closure Heaped Stress On Thousands

A photo of the 3-Mile Bridge from April 2021.

Research from the University of West Florida looked to measure the impact of being without the 3 Mile Bridge had on the people who usually use it.

“The biggest thing was the stress, but more so, the commute was the stress,” said Dr. Allison Green, associate professor of global hospitality and tourism management at the University of West Florida.

In fact, 94% of the people in the study said the longer commute added a whole lot of stress to their lives. Green says some people drove an extra 30 to 60 miles to and from work which added a lot more time on the road to most people’s workday.

“The most stress was the work/life balance, and I call it an imbalance. But if you think of this, you were used to driving 15 to 30 minutes for your commute, and that now goes to one hour to one and a half hours to ‘who knows,’" said Green. "You get home, you’re tired and cranky. So that was what really came out of (the study), the work/life (balance), which then goes into organizations and productivity.”

Dr. Green conducted the study with Dr. Ata Atadil and undergraduate student Genna Edwards, collecting data from 300 Escambia and Santa Rosa County residents impacted by the closure of the bridge. The data was collected over a two-week time frame in May 2021.

Along with the predictable negative finding from the study, Dr. Green says there were positive notes in the results. Over 88% of employers the researchers talked to said they understood the added pressure on employees affected by the bridge being out, and more than half of those companies allowed workers a more flexible work schedule.

There was one result that really surprised the research team.

“Out of the stress of pandemic, the stress of a hurricane, the bridge being out was what came out as the most stressful. Again, it comes into our everyday life. We’re going to go down in history for the last eight months with the bridge being out, but what surprised me the most (is) that people said the bridge being out was the most (stressful). I think that’s what the conclusion is: this is our lifeline.”

Many long-time residents will remember that this is not the first time the 3 Mile Bridge has been hit by a barge and closed. In January of 1989, two barges slammed into the structure causing serious damage. The bridge was closed to traffic for 18 days, and there was no Garcon Point Bridge at that time so all traffic had to take the 45-mile detour to State Route 87. It would be 224 days before all bridge repairs could be completed and traffic returned to normal.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.