CHIPLEY - Motorists are urged to use indefinite caution as repairs are made to the Orange Hill Road bridge at Gilbert’s Mill Road (County Road 273).

A letter issued by the Florida Department of Transportation to Washington County Public Works on Wednesday states a recent field inspection revealed structural deficiencies, resulting in a determination that the bridge should be closed.

The report shows that piles 2-3, 2-4, 33, and 3-4 all need to be replaced.

When a bridge fails a safety inspection, Florida Statute requires the government entity having maintenance responsibility reduce the maximum load limits or close the bridge as recommended by the inspection report. Currently, the Orange Hill Bridge posts a limit of 24 tons.

Although Washington County Public Works originally agreed to close the bridge, Washington County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Tray Hawkins issued a statement Thursday saying only one lane will be closed in an effort to "keep public inconvenience to a minimum."

“After careful consideration, along with conferences with county personnel and Florida Department of Transportation officials, Washington County has opted to close only one lane of the Orange Hill Road bridge at Gilbert’s Mill Road,” he said.

Currently only regular passenger vehicles are allowed to traverse the bridge. Washington County School District Transportation Department has already been in touch with  families of affected bus riders and will follow up as soon as updates are available.

The bridge will re-open after a satisfactory inspection by FDOT.