The 3-mile causeway was badly damaged by the Category 4 hurricane, with initial predictions that repairs could take months. Instead, the span reopened just three weeks after the storm blew ashore Sept. 28.
"We cut through red tape, and we understood that time is of the essence," DeSantis said at a news conference. "It's something that shows a little bit of a can-do spirit for a change. Maybe we should just focus on getting things done and not be mired in bureaucracy all the time."
Sanibel Island is home to about 6,300 people. The storm killed more than 100 people in Florida, many of them in Lee County, where Sanibel and its famed seashell beaches are a top tourist destination.
One lifelong Sanibel resident, Troy Thompson, said having the causeway back will really help the barrier island because so much recovery work remains.
"The causeway is our lifeline. It means everything to get it back," said Thompson, operations manager at his family's Lazy Flamingo restaurant.
The governor's office said 100 crews worked around the clock to repair the causeway, which includes three separate bridges. Workers used 8,200 loads of fill dirt, 2,400 loads of rock, and 4,000 tons of asphalt.
The Florida Department of Transportation will continue to work on a permanent fix for the causeway, officials said. Power restoration, debris removal and other recovery efforts will be much easier with the temporary causeway repairs, they said.
"There is hope," said Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the Lee County Commission. "We will rebuild."