Residents of Sanibel Island crossed the causeway Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Ian damaged the only land access road to this popular Gulf Coast destination.
“The causeway is our lifeline, and without it we don’t have a chance to go back to the island, to go back to our homes,” said Troy Thompson, a longtime resident who runs Lazy Flamingo restaurants. “We’ve been stranded in the city for three weeks and coming back means everything.”
The causeway, which consists of three bridges and a road on two small artificial islands, was opened weeks earlier than initially planned and even two days earlier than the latest calculations said.
“We had an ambitious agenda and an ambitious roadmap to get it done,” Governor Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in Fort Myers, noting that 100 crews did some 36,000 hours of work on the highway.
At least five sections of the highway, which connects Sanibel to the mainland, were washed away by Hurricane Ian, Lee County officials said.
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jared Perdue said the bridges were largely undamaged, but “portions of the highway connecting the bridge structures had been damaged.” swept away (by the hurricane).