How did Sanibel Causeway open early? 4,000 tons of asphalt and an ‘ambitious road map’

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, posted an image to Twitter of state officials, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, on the soon-to-open Sanibel Causeway on Oct. 19, 2022. The bridge, damaged by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, opened to emergency crews a week earlier and to the public at 11 a.m. Oct. 19.

The Sanibel Causeway opened for public access to the storm-damaged island on Wednesday morning.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced from the bridge that the roadway to the island, which was damaged and made unusable from Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, was repaired days ahead of schedule and would allow public crossings beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Who can use Sanibel Causeway

But there are rules attached by the city manager’s office to the Sanibel re-entry plan.

According to the City of Sanibel, emergency re-entry on Monday and Tuesday of each week is reserved for essential response personnel only. The allowed groups include emergency vehicles, debris management, electric providers and water and sewer utility providers.

On Wednesday through Sunday, residents, business and property owners and private contractors may access Sanibel Causeway.

Inbound access will be between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are two inbound lanes. The left lane is for Sanibel residents, businesses, property owners and private contractors.

A valid 2021 or 2022 Sanibel re-entry permit must be prominently displayed when approaching the checkpoint. The county does not want sightseers or visitors yet.

A curfew is in effect between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. restricting access, including pedestrians, to essential response personnel only.

How repairs were managed

Last week, DeSantis announced that earlier temporary repairs allowed work crews access to Sanibel by land and teams from Florida Power & Light, Lee County Electric Cooperative and others headed to Sanibel by land. He said that the causeway would be open for civilian use on Oct. 21.

READ MORE: A slice of Sanibel Causeway washed away in Hurricane Ian. Then came the truck convoy

The causeway has opened two days ahead of schedule.

“You need to get people over there on vehicles,” the governor said, adding that the Sanibel Causeway had “more significant damage than the Pine Island bridge.”

Temporary work on the Pine Island bridge, which connects to Matlacha, was concluded Oct. 5.

Sanibel Causeway’s “ambitious agenda, road map to get this done” required 100 crews, including members of the Florida Department of Transportation and dive teams, and 36,000 work hours, DeSantis said.

Sanibel Causeway had multiple points that needed shoring up to allow both rescue crews and the public to safely drive across. This work also required the use of 70 pieces of heavy equipment, four barges, seven cranes and 4,000 tons of asphalt, DeSantis said.

DeSantis added that permanent repairs will still be needed and that work will be done through the county and at the local level, WTSP Tampa Bay 10 reported.