All four lanes of the newly named Herbert R. Savage Bridge on Collier Boulevard are now open to both north and south bound traffic as of Saturday morning.

Some work is yet to be done and may involve some lane closures on occasion, but traffic is moving smoothly.

At Monday night’s Marco Island City Council meeting, Howard Murrell Jr., president of Quality Enterprises, said his company anticipated all four lanes of traffic will be open over the new and improved $8.6 million Smokehouse Bay Bridge on Monday, Nov. 9, provided all goes as planned.

About 30 days of work remain before the bridge work contracted to his company is completed, Murrell said, but the flow of traffic in all lanes on the bridge should resume some time on Monday.

That came as a pleasant surprise to many on the dais as well as residents in the audience at the council meeting.

It has been more than 15 months now since construction began on replacing the old Smokehouse Bay Bridge on North Collier Boulevard.

Quality Enterprises, the low bidder on the contract, began rerouting traffic early in August 2014 when the project began in earnest.

Construction work itself has been controversial since its inception. In 2009, TY Lin International was chosen to complete the engineering design plans for the bridge after considerable debate. That firm’s selection was based upon their conceptual presentation at a charrette held that year when the council and the public favored their presentation over that of four other design engineering firms competing for the business.

Former council members would continue to debate whether it would be feasible to simply repair the bridge rather than replace it. In 2012, city council would again request an independent analysis of the condition of the bridge, which indicated the structure needed to be replaced.

Late in June 2013, bids were received by the city, and to the surprise of many, came in 45 percent over the original costs projected by TY Lin International based upon the design chosen during the charrette process. Part of the reason given was the expensive steel required to provide the centerpiece design the former council and the public had preferred.

Increases in the cost of steel drove the price up by nearly $2 million as the ornamental tubing required was only available in China, infuriating some on council.

After much discussion and debate, the entire project went back out to rebid in February 2014 with a less elaborate design.

“We brought it back to a basic bridge that people could drive and walk over,” said council member Ken Honecker, when asked to comment on the difference between the two proposals.

According to Murrell, QE president, permanent railings, lighting, painting and other smaller items still must be completed. In addition, the city has not awarded a contract for the final landscaping of the approaches and along the retaining walls.

The city must also deal with the ongoing negotiations with The Esplanade on issues related to damages due to the construction and the granting of a permanent maintenance easement and certain requirements for landscaping.

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