Work has progressed so well on the damaged Interstate 75 overpass at University Parkway that all lanes reopened at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, a day earlier than planned, transportation officials said.
The Florida Highway Patrol reopened the southbound I-75 overpass at University Parkway in Sarasota County. All lanes have been reopened.
FHP troopers will remain in the area to ensure traffic flows smoothly during the initial opening.
Only one of the interstate's three southbound lanes had been open since early Tuesday morning, one day after damage to the overpass caused a major commuting headache in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
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"Only cleanup work remains along University Parkway under the overpass and it will not affect traffic," Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Robin Stublen said Tuesday evening.
At 8 a.m., traffic was moving at a slow crawl, with cars backed up all the way north of the State Road 70 interchange in Manatee.
Traffic was flowing smoothly east and west on University Parkway, which had been reopened and with none of the traffic backups of a day earlier.
The parking lot at The Shoppes at University Town Center on Cooper Creek Boulevard, just next to the overpass, was slowly beginning to fill up around 8:30 a.m.
"The parking lot was pretty empty all day yesterday," said Dennis Holly, owner of John Dough Bakery & Cafe. "(The interstate shutdown) definitely affected everybody."
Holly said he wanted customers to know University Parkway and the interstate were open. Officials originally said a shutdown could last 48 hours.
"I think if people think it's still blocked off, the public will stay away," Holly said.
One woman in line at the bakery was inquiring if I-75 was open.
"Is the road behind Target open?" she asked. "Then that's what I'm taking!"
Monday afternoon, the interstate was shut down at the overpass, which was damaged when a mishap involving a truck hauling construction equipment left several holes in the roadway.
Crews worked overnight to repair the damage , the Florida Department of Transportation said. They poured new deck in areas where damaged concrete has been removed.