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By AARON SHAROCKMAN Published August 19, 2005 Traffic rolled over the Clearwater Memorial Causeway bridge for the first time Thursday afternoon as a caravan of city vehicles climbed eastward toward a lightning-scarred sky. The parade of fire vehicles, police cruisers and a garbage truck lasted about four minutes and came a few hours later scheduled. Average Joes followed, as did the Jolley Trolley and everyone else. As wild as it was building this bridge – nearly 17 months late and millions of dollars over budget – Thursday was another remarkable day. 9:55 A.M.: Workers from Overstreet Paving of Brooksville finish ripping up a 150-yard stretch of the eastbound approach that needs resurfacing. One jokes about the news that the bridge was to open at 10 a.m., “That one gave us a chuckle.” 10:15 A.M.: Deputy police Chief Dewey Williams pulls up to inspect the work. Leaves shaking his head. Motorcycle units are on standby, ready to lead the first cars. Road still unpaved. 10:52 A.M.: A bicyclist crosses westbound traffic to check on the progress. He asks to take a ride on the new bridge. “Not yet,” fires back someone on the crew. The biker pedals on. Road still unpaved. 11 A.M.: Television reports bridge delayed, again. City and state officials say eastbound lanes will open, arguing there’s no delay at all. Road still unpaved. 11:38 A.M.: Workers start to lay asphalt. George McKeldin, a 71-year-old downtown Clearwater resident waiting on his bike, says he’ll stick it out. 12:19 P.M.: Asphalt down. Crews start rolling it flat. 12:58 P.M.: Lightning begins filling Clearwater skies. A light rain follows. Police motorcycle units head back for cruisers. 1:20 P.M.: Crews start drilling into the asphalt, taking samples of the new roadway. Paint trucks follow closely, laying a white line down the edge of the road. 1:36 P.M.: Bridge project manager Sean Bush of PCL Civil Constructors brushes bits of debris off the new roadway. Bush, who directed construction of the bridge, walks the new roadway like a proud father. 1:44 P.M.: Police cruisers arrive followed by a group of city vehicles led by Mayor Frank Hibbard. Bush taps on Hibbard’s window. He rolls it down. “Mr. Hibbard, welcome to your bridge,” Bush says. 1:50 P.M.: Wheels turn. Finally. LANES OPENING Westbound lanes of the bridge are scheduled to open between noon and 2 p.m. today, state officials say. Source:
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