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Bridge safe despite beam cracks

By Staff | Dec 14, 2012

PHOTO: CausewayHump.jpg JIM LINETTE The Sanibel Causeway Bridge opened to traffic in 2007.

Lee County Department of Transportation has enlisted structural engineers to monitor hairline cracks in the support beams of the Sanibel Causeway Bridge.

“The bridge is safe,” said Randy Cerchie, deputy director of Lee DOT. “All concrete cracks. These are hairline cracks, some can’t even be seen.”

Florida Department of Transportation inspects all bridges in the state at least every two years and first discovered cracks in 2009, and again in 2011. The cracking, caused by settling, eventually should stabilize.

“Finding cracks so soon after the bridge opened in 2007 caused us concern,” said Cerchie. “After 2009 we put sealant on the cracks, but in 2011 we saw the cracks extended beyond the sealant.”

Structural engineers will identify the cracks, measure, monitor and issue a report to Lee DOT at a cost of about $161,000. The expenditure was voted on by the Lee County Commission on Tuesday and contract awarded to T.Y. Lin International. The money will come from toll receipts.

“They will go back in a year and do it again,” said Cerchie. “We have a bridge crew that looks at all the bridges in the county as well on a regular basis.”

Cerchie assures motorists there is no danger.

“All of the concrete could fall off and the bridge would still stand with all of the (steel) reinforcement used in the beams,” he said.