Governor Rick Scott made a stop in Pensacola Monday morning to talk about building bridges-- literally. Scott, along with many state and local officials gathered at the north end of the 3 Mile Bridge to talk about the bridge replacement project and its impact on the area. "A 398 million dollar project. As you might expect you had a lot of people making sure this bridge was done right."
The bridge will be a six lane, double span structure connecting Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. Construction on the bridge will take over 1,400 days. Governor Scott had praise for Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward for pushing the state to go ahead with the project, saying he was "very active making sure this would be done the right way."
"The governor almost threw me out of his office a few times over the last seven years making sure we were focused on this bridge and doing it right" said Hayward to a crowd of about a hundred officials and media members Monday morning. "But when you think about [this project], think about transportation. When you move people through a community, whether it's the state [or] your home town, it's incredible important to move people correctly. Visitors are going to be driving across this bridge. Retirees, students, people going to work. It's incredibly important to have the best infrastructure that you can have."
State Senator Doug Broxton also spoke to the crowd saying "Not only are we going to have a bridge, but we're going to have a bridge that will not be tolled, and that is atypical of every bridge being built in Florida."
In the early planning stages of the bridge project, there was a possibility that there could be a toll charged. At the ceremony, State Representative Clay Ingram said "going back several years when we first heard about the need to replace the bridge, which was at the end of its life, it was widely assumed that it [was going to be a toll bridge]." Ingram said that he and others made sure that officials were educated about the impact of a toll on the bridge. "What that would do to people working on the beach or trying to get home back and forth [between Gulf Breeze and Pensacola] every day. Trying to make that payment would be a hugely regressive tax that would hurt the people here, our citizens, who could least afford to pay that."
One of the officials who accompanied the governor to the ceremony was Jim Patronis, who Scott had just named as the new state Chief Financial Officer, replacing Jeff Atwater. Patronis, a business owner from the panhandle is familiar with the history and importance of the bridge. "This bridge has an emotional [connection] in northwest Florida. [It's lived through] Hurricane Ivan, Hurricane Dennis, the oil spill. The economy of northwest Florida and the tourism economy here is vital and this bridge is a huge artery."
Construction on the bridge has been going on for a few weeks now. The first span is scheduled to be completed in January of 2019 with the final span opening in summer of 2020.