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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Don't save Friendship Trail Bridge, Pinellas says



Breaking with an oversight panel and Hillsborough County, Pinellas County staffers have advised the County Commission to vote against pursuing federal stimulus money Tuesday to save the Friendship Trail Bridge.

Pete Yauch, director of public works and transportation, wrote a memo saying the project wouldn't be cost effective because it would only keep the 2.6-mile span functioning for 10 years, then require demolition. He doubts the project's chances of winning stimulus cash, too.

But supporters of the bridge says the recreational benefits of saving the St. Petersburg-to-Tampa span make it important to save. And they suspect the county is worried that seeking stimulus money for the bridge would put it into competition with other transportation projects that public works officials might seek money for.

Frank Miller, executive director of Friendship Trail Corp., dismissed Yauch's argument against requesting stimulus cash over presumed slim chances.

"Maybe the Bucs shouldn't play a game this year, because they probably will lose a game?" he said, adding, "That is being truly stupid."

Hillsborough commissioners voted 5-2 this month to pursue roughly $20 million for the pedestrian and recreational bridge, closed since November for safety reasons.

Engineers have estimated it will cost $15 million to extend the bridge's life by another decade. The estimate for tearing it down is $13 million.

The Pinellas commission meets at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Clearwater.

-- David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:03pm]


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