MARCO ISLAND — The Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge has a twin. It’s not quite identical and wasn’t “born,” or constructed, on the same date, but next to the old Jolley Bridge is now another Jolley Bridge.
Drivers will be able to use Marco Island’s new two-lane span by the end of the month, Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Debbie Tower said.
When that occurs within the next 10 days, traffic from the existing bridge will shift to the new parallel span and crews will begin working on new roadway approaches to the existing bridge, Tower said.
Eventually, both spans that connect Marco Island to the mainland via Collier Boulevard will be open to the public. The old one will be for northbound traffic headed off the island and the new one will be for southbound traffic headed to Marco.
Though an exact date and time for when traffic will be shifted from the old bridge to the new couldn’t be projected, the transition will be seamless for drivers, Tower assured.
Congestion on the old bridge had in the past caused concern among Marco Island emergency officials, including its fire chief, Mike Murphy.
The main purpose of the approximately $25.5 million federal stimulus project is to improve traffic flow and capacity.
“This is particularly important in hurricane season, since it is on a key hurricane evacuation route and the new bridge is rated to withstand a much stronger storm,” said Bill Trotter, a Marco Island councilman and chairman of the Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization, a board that sets long-term road priorities.
The new span can withstand a hurricane up to a level 5, Trotter has said.
Although the old bridge remains standing after a $9 million rehabilitation in 2009, lost completely were its dilapidated fishing piers, which were ravaged by Hurricane Wilma. There was no money available to build new fishing piers, officials have said.
However, fishing from the bridge isn’t forbidden, Tower said.
“There is a sidewalk on the western side of the bridge. There are areas off the sidewalk for people to stand and look out at the view. We don’t see why people couldn’t stand there and fish,” Tower said.
Also, fishing will be possible from under the bridge with some informal parking available near park-like areas at the base of the bridge.
“There will be substantial new landscaping and pedestrian access,” Trotter noted in an email to the Daily News as he shared a presentation of the landscaping plan provided at the June 10 MPO meeting.
There is no fixed date for full project completion, but construction remains on-schedule with fall completion likely, Tower said.
The project was made possible through the federal stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The contract to build the new span over Big Marco Pass is with Lithia-based Johnson Brothers and Tallahassee-based FIGG, which make up the design-build team.
Some Southwest Floridians also were put to work, transportation officials report. Some were hired by the firms directly to work at least through project completion and perhaps beyond.
Other businesses, including Marco Marine Construction and Gulf Marine of Marco Island, Gulf Sands Consulting of Naples and Lee County firms APAC-Southeast and Allied Engineering were among the subcontractors on the job, Tower said.
Passersby also will see work on the medians of Collier Boulevard as they approach and leave the bridge, with much of the area’s landscaping work beginning in July.