For about two months now, traffic has been diverted from the old northbound section of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge to the newly constructed southbound span. Since then, a number of portions of the $8.25 million bridge improvement project either have been completed or are well underway.

"All of our utility work dealing with water and wastewater lines have been finalized," said Jeff Poteet, head of the Marco Island Utilities water and sewer department. "We now have a completely new service installed for drinking water, wastewater and reuse water.

"New service pipes have either been placed the bridge or under the channel bed," said Poteet.

Originally the project was to be complete at the end of July, but city officials are now uncertain when the job will be done.

When the contractor transferred traffic to the new southbound span, workers began the dismantling of the old northbound bridge deck. They also removed much of the approaches on both the north and southbound sides of the old structure.

This would permit the continued rerouting of all of the stormwater collection infrastructure that is required as part of the project, city staff said.

The old storm water outfall on the west side of the bridge was removed and that water has been diverted under the roadbed with large cement pipes to connect into the existing system, which will be linked with an improved 72-inch outfall through the new seawall structure on the Winn-Dixie side of the bridge.

Once the dismantling of the old bridge deck was completed, the contractor began the process of installing the new seawall structures on both sides of the bridge.

The material that makes up the seawall structure is steel with a special anti-corrosive coating. Those sheet-piles are interlocked and driven into place and end up about 26 feet below the channel bed.

"This is the same type of seawall sheeting utilized in much of the commercial marine port applications," said Tim Pinter, city public works director.

A "dead-man" system of tie-backs and a cement cap will put into place much like the standard seawall found in a neighborhood, providing a secure and long-lasting seawall structure, city staff said.

Stormwater on the south side of the bridge will be tied into a 48-inch outfall located at Century Court, further down Collier Boulevard. All stormwater from that side of the new bridge will be diverted to that location.

The 109-foot cement pilings that the bridge I-beams will span between on both the north and south side of this new structure have also been recently set in place.

Predrilling for those structures was done and they were quickly set in place two weeks ago. Those pilings extend approximately 80 feet below the surface of the channel.

The structures that will sit atop those piling will be poured onsite rather than purchasing precast pieces to avoid any damage in transit, such as happened on the southbound side, city staff said.

Completion date unknown

The completion date for the project is still unknown.

Originally, the contractor had signed on to a construction schedule that showed completion by the end of July.

That date has consistently shifted and city staff and councilmen have voiced their displeasure with that elusive target for completion and hesitate to speculate about any further possible target dates.

Pinter said he will be meeting with the contractor within the week to discuss the completion date and other matters and will report to the Marco Island City Council at its July 20 meeting.

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