MANATEE -- Florida officials have discovered that Longboat Pass bridge between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key has shifted at least two inches, jamming the drawbridge and causing a significant crack in the structure, though it's still safe for cars, cyclists and walkers to use the bridge.
Robin Stublen, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, said they became aware of the problem after the bridge tender heard an odd sound Friday morning and called his supervisor.
At noon Friday, a crew learned that the drawbridge was stuck and thought it was a simple malfunction. At 3:45 p.m., a maintenance team came in and saw the gap between the drawbridge and the concrete portion of the bridge was about 2.9 inches. The normal gap length is 1 1/2 inches.
A rapid response team, consisting of maintenance workers, engineers and divers, came in on Saturday and discovered the bridge had shifted by a couple of inches, which caused the issue with the drawbridge and the crack.
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"There are pins that lock the drawbridge into place," Stublen said. "The shift made those pins misalign."
Stublen said the main concern right now is to get the drawbridge functional and then they will see what steps need to be taken to fix the crack. In the meantime, officials are monitoring the gap between the concrete and the drawbridge portions, and boards were laid over sidewalk gaps so bicyclists could use the bridge normally.
The gap widened to 4 inches on Saturday afternoon, but Stublen said it has stabilized.
"The gap hasn't widened since (Saturday) at 7 p.m.," Stublen said Monday afternoon.
There is drilling going on underneath the bridge as the town of Longboat Key puts in a standard portable water line, which Juan Florensa, public works director of Longboat Key, said is being installed as an update to the old line that ran underneath the bridge.
Though Stublen said officials knew the bridge had shifted, which put the concrete under stress, he said they weren't sure what caused the shift, and their focus was fixing the problem. Stublen said they had no indication that the drilling was the issue.
"I'm not interested in assigning blame," he said.