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Pensacola Bay Bridge Could Reopen In Mid-March

City of Pensacola

Construction of the new Three Mile Bridge – or at least its immediate future – was among topics discussed at Mayor Grover Robinson’s weekly news conference on Monday.

“We have been having weekly meetings with FDOT; and frankly, the reason we’re on those calls every week is to make sure that there’s no surprises,” said State Sen. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze).

Broxson provided a briefing on the bridge, which was severely damaged by barges that broke loose during Hurricane Sally. He said they ask FDOT every week, what residents need to be told about any possible delay in reopening the span, now scheduled for between March 15 and April 1.

“We’re expecting some new equipment to come in that will have the ability to lift the spans that are damaged in one piece,” Broxson said. “It’s much heavier than the pieces that were taken off from the old bridge. But if that happens that could accelerate, by a few days, at least, our timeline.”

Work gets underway soon on testing that equipment for safety; Broxson adds that divers will also continue to inspect the bridge’s pilings.

“We know that once the bridge is back in operation there will be some things that will be different from when it was before,” said Broxson. “We probably will not have a pedestrian pathway for a while; I’ve asked [FDOT Sec. Kevin Thibault] directly, ‘Are we too optimistic?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely not.’”

In the meantime, Broxson is urging residents to take advantage of the services provided by Escambia County Area Transit – ECAT.

“I rode the bus over this morning from Tiger Point; it’s not only free, it’s just as fast as bringing your own vehicle,” Broxson said. “If you live in Gulf Breeze, or if you live in Pensacola or Pensacola Beach, you need to use the ECAT. It’s a very effective way to get back and forth to work.”

Elsewhere, Mayor Grover Robinson said work is underway on taking down the Confederate statue in Florida Square on Palafox Street. 

“Ours is a little more elaborate in the way it was placed up and the way it was put together; so it’s taken a lot longer to come down in pieces,” said the Mayor. “When you look at it -- what’s there, the stones that were erected and the way the whole thing sits – we’re in the process of taking it down to make sure we preserve it, and [it] can be re-erected.”

Put up in 1891 during the Jim Crowe era, the 8-foot-tall statue of a Confederate soldier stood on top of a 42-foot-high monument. The next question is: just where could the re-erection take place?

“I think you’ll probably see the base and the tablet portions go to St. John’s [Cemetery]; nobody else at this particular time has necessarily stepped forward and said they wanted it or anything else,” Robinson said. “We’re continuing to evaluate what may happen with the location.” 

Credit Sandra Averhart/WUWF Public Media
Pensacola's Confederate monument.

The St. John’s Cemetery Foundation has said it would take the monument, to be placed near the Confederate and Union troops buried there. But Robinson expects the conversation to change, once it comes down and is stored at the Port of Pensacola awaiting a new home.

“Many people didn’t want other locations to be available, because their whole purpose was they didn’t want it to come down; I think once it comes down, we’ll see what happens,” the mayor said. “We’re only going to deal with things that we feel like we can handle it in a responsible and respectful way; clearly, St. John’s has done that. I think that, to me, is the most likely site.”

But, other locations, Robinson concedes, remain under consideration for the statue of the soldier, such as the University of West Florida Historic Trust.

“One thing we knew was not going to happen is probably the pillar, the parapet, was ever going to be a part of that because of the height,” the mayor said. “There are other places that have talked about, and there may be other opportunities for the soldier – UWF or some other place. I think we’re still evaluating that.”

Contractors will take about another month to remove the granite monument, at a cost of $135,000.