TAMPA – A bridge in Sarasota County that spans Interstate 75 near North Port was not structurally damaged enough to keep the southbound lanes closed, so highway authorities re-opened all the lanes Wednesday afternoon.
The Ponce de Leon Boulevard overpass had been struck by a dump truck early Wednesday morning and engineers were at the scene most of the day trying to determine if the damage was significant.
Initially, the Florida Highway Patrol had closed the southbound lanes saying the closure could last up to 48 hours.
For most of the day, traffic was diverted from the interstate and took a slow-moving 14-mile detour.
The 2:35 a.m. wreck Wednesday involved a 1996 Kenworth dump truck heading south with its bed “improperly left in the upright position,” troopers said. The bed hit the bottom of the bridge and separated from the truck.
The truck continued for a short distance and stopped. The truck driver fled on foot, but was brought back by North Port police officers and arrested, troopers said. Bonnie Doosarran Ramsingh, 56, North Miami, was charged with leaving the scene of a property damage crash and driving without a commercial driver’s license. He remained in the Sarasota County jail Wednesday afternoon. Bail was set at $620.
For much of the day Wednesday, all southbound lanes were shut down.
Traffic was diverted off the interstate at River Road, heading south to U.S. 41 then to Sumter Boulevard and back to Interstate 75. The detour slowed travelers to a crawl as highway authorities inspected the bridge to see if there was structural damage.
“I can tell you by looking out the window, that traffic is moving,” said Jim Garner, who works at the Rambler’s Rest RV Resort on River Road, about three miles south of the interstate. “But, it’s bumper to bumper and going pretty slow.”
He said River Road is a two-lane road in front of his business and guesses it is backed up clear to U.S. 41, a little over two miles to the south.
“It’s been like that all morning,” he said.
Farther down the road, Sandie Karp, office manager with the North Port Area Chamber of Commerce watched as an unbroken line of southbound traffic eased along Tamiami Trail, or U.S. 41.
“It’s pretty backed up,” she said. “There’s a lot of traffic.”
She said at most of the intersections with traffic signals along the five-mile stretch of U.S. 41 between River Road and Sumter Boulevard, law enforcement officers are directing traffic to keep vehicles moving.
“The police are trying to move it along,” she said, “but, it’s slow. There’s a lot of traffic. It’s constant; there never is a break.”