The nearly 16,000-feet transit artery between Sanibel Island and mainland Southwest Florida was severed during Hurricane Ian, and there’s now a plan to reconnect it.
In a press conference in Sarasota County on Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis stressed the immediacy of repairing the destroyed Sanibel Causeway to bring desperate aid to hurricane-battered residents. The governor announced the Florida Department of Transportation awarded a construction contract on Tuesday to begin temporary repairs with permanent construction planned in the future.
Project managers will partner with Lee County with full accessibility across anticipated by the end of October. First responders have currently relied on helicopter and boat travel to bring aid to those who did not heed evacuation calls prior to Hurricane Ian.
According to Sanibel officials, around 200 households resisted evacuation. Two fatalities have been reported and a further twelve injured people were rescued by first responders. Another 40 uninjured people were taken off the island.
A repaired causeway will allow expedited recovery efforts, power restoration and debris removal. It will also enable the island’s nearly 6,400 residents access to fully assess the extent of the storm’s devastation of Sanibel’s affluent properties.
Financial details of the contract and the required competitive bidding process have not been provided. Lee County is one of nine counties designated by President Joe Biden for federal disaster funds. As a member of Congress in 2012, DeSantis twice voted against similar federal relief for Hurricane Sandy victims, primarily in New York.
As of Thursday, nearly 200,000 Floridians were still without power due to the storm.
DeSantis announced that a temporary bridge to Pine Island, nestled between Sanibel and the mainland, has been completed in three days. Pine Island is home to 9,000 residents.
Damage to the islands’ bridges was caused when the immensity of the storm washed away the land the roads were built on.
State transportation officials announced all state-owned bridges have been inspected for required repairs, and they’re also providing assistance to inspect locally owned bridges. They also said nearly all the state’s impacted roads have been cleared and made passable.
Sanibel officials have measured 3 million vehicles traveling annually over the Sanibel Causeway, with residents, tourists and employees drawn to the island’s pristine beaches and resorts.