Pinellas County Commission rejects Friendship Trail rescue plan
CLEARWATER -- The Pinellas County Commission rejected a plan this afternoon to seek federal stimulus money to repair the Friendship Trail Bridge, the pedestrian span across Tampa Bay.
In a pair of 7-0 votes, the board opposed requesting at least $20 million in stimulus money and then voted to ask the bridge's oversight panel to study funding options and business plans to keep the bridge upright and demolish it. It came with a 90-day deadline.
Engineers say fixing the bridge will cost $15 million, and demolishing it $13 million. Hillsborough commissioners had voted to seek the stimulus money to repair the bridge, which has been closed since November for safety reasons. Its supports have crumbled from corrosion.
The commission dashed supporters' hopes. Frank Miller, executive director of Friendship Trail Corp., said he has little hope the bridge can be reopened. He said Pinellas officials wrongly said the stimulus request would compete with another request to expand a "smart system" of traffic lights.
"It's not about money," he said. "It's about politics."
David DeCamp, Times Staff Writer