(FORT MYERS, Fla.) -- The Sanibel Causeway will reopen to civilian traffic on Wednesday, three weeks after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida's southwestern coast and destroyed portions of the vital link between Sanibel Island and the mainland.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday morning that the causeway would reopen to residents of Lee County following temporary repairs. The causeway is opening ahead of schedule, with repairs previously expected to be done by Oct. 21.
"There was talk about how do we get more people back on to Sanibel," DeSantis said at a press briefing, calling the damage to the causeway "significant." "We had an ambitious agenda and ambitious roadmap to get this done by the end of October."
DeSantis added that the causeway still needs permanent repairs, which will continue.
A DeSantis administration official with knowledge of the project told ABC News that the governor made it a personal priority to reopen the causeway as soon as possible and pushed the Florida Department of Transportation to expedite repairs to keep the project ahead of schedule.
Lee County -- home to Fort Myers and the barrier islands Sanibel and Pine -- was especially hard-hit by the powerful Category 4 storm.
The Matlacha Pass Bridge, which connects Pine Island to the mainland in Cape Coral, was also destroyed by Ian.
Damage to the causeway and bridge forced first responders to rely mainly on helicopters to conduct search and rescue operations as well as airlift vehicles and other assets onto Pine and Sanibel islands.
A temporary bridge restoring access to Pine Island opened to the public earlier this month.