A man charged with using a stolen backhoe to close the Seven Mile Bridge for several hours before dawn Tuesday remains jailed under a $32,500 bond.
The Florida Department of Transportation also may want to talk to defendant Carl J. Blahnik, 59, about an estimated $30,000 in damage he caused to the Florida Keys' longest bridge during his wild ride.
"Crews began repairing the damage [Wednesday] night and the work should be completed in a couple of days," Ivette Ruiz-Paz, spokeswoman for the FDOT's South Florida District, said Thursday.
"The backhoe damaged hundreds of reflective pavement markers and did minor damage to the bridge concrete deck," Ruiz-Paz said. "The bridge is currently open to traffic with no restrictions."
Blahnik, facing multiple felonies in addition to driving violations, has a Thursday arraignment scheduled before Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker in Marathon.
Blahnik is accused of stealing the backhoe -- which had the keys left in the ignition -- from a work site near the Marathon Community Park around midnight.
He traveled to the Seven Mile Bridge, where he used the heavy equipment to drop large rocks across the north entrance to the span.
He then headed south at a top speed of 13 mph, and nearly made it to the bridge's south end at mile marker 40. Two Monroe County Sheriff's Office patrol cars cut him off, but Blahnik skillfully executed an abrupt turn and headed north.
Deputies cleared the bridge of traffic and chased the backhoe while Blahnik drove back and forth on the bridge for about 90 minutes. The backhoe finally was halted when deputies set road spikes to deflate its tires.
"It's hard to believe someone would do something so stupid," Sheriff Rick Ramsay told US1 Radio. "There are 10 different ways people could have gotten hurt or killed."
But Blahnik's skill at making tight turns and working the backhoe's scoop to rip up road reflectors over three miles of the bridge "was quite impressive," Ramsay said.
The Seven Mile Bridge reopened around 3 a.m. Tuesday after debris from the incident was cleared.
Blahnik, apparently homeless, carried Wisconsin identification when arrested after his spree. Online arrest records of a Carl J. Blahnik with the same October 1959 birth date indicate Wisconsin arrests in 2005 for fleeing from officers and in 2010 for car theft.
Blahnik also apparently served a year in prison and a year on parole after his 2012 arrest for felony battery in Lake County, Ill.
Charges from the Seven Mile Bridge rampage include vehicle theft, reckless driving, fleeing from law officers, aggravated assault, littering and damaging U.S. 1.
Blahnik also was ticketed for driving on a suspended license, driving an unregistered vehicle and not having proper lights for night driving.
A final bill for Seven Mile Bridge repairs may exceed the estimated $30,000, Ruiz-Paz said.