Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Committee hopes to save Friendship Trail Bridge

TAMPA — After more than an hour of impassioned speeches from fishermen, bicyclists, nature lovers and advocates for the disabled, Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris said the Friendship Trail Bridge oversight committee will recommend that the ailing structure be repaired and preserved.

Around 250 people tried to cram into a meeting room built for 150 at Jan K. Platt Library in South Tampa on Wednesday night to show support for the 54-year-old landmark. The pedestrian bridge has been closed since November 2008 because of structural and safety issues outlined by county contracted engineers.

The crowd listened to a presentation by KCA engineer David B. Thompson as he laid out four options for the bridge's future.

One option would be to find $15 million to repair the entire structure, giving the bridge about 10 more years of life, he said.

The other options were tearing down the bridge's center leaving catwalks, tearing it all down and adding fishing piers, tearing it down and building piers someplace else or just tearing it down.

Ben Ritter, speaking for the local Paralyzed Veterans of America, said demolishing the bridge would be paid out of county budgets, but there is a federal grant that could pay for repairs.

"The government is going to spend that pork money somewhere. We might as well bring on home the bacon and fry it up," quipped committee member Tom Bryan.

The committee, appointed by Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, took no formal vote. Harris said members had a "consensus'' that the counties should try to salvage the entire bridge, and will recommend that to their commissions. But two Hillsborough commissioners serving on the committee sounded skeptical.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham said it was troubling that $15 million would extend the bridge's life only a decade.

"I'd always heard about the old Gandy bridge, but it was just a slab on concrete to me," he said. "But then I heard all the impassioned stories. … I'm most concerned with, if we spend that money and we still have to tear it down in 10 years."

Commissioner Jim Norman also raised fiscal concerns. "When I voted against this project all those years ago, it was because I knew this would happen," he said.

When the idea of a pedestrian bridge was first proposed, he wanted to approach the state about declaring it a state park.

Frank Miller, executive director of the Friendship Trail Corp., said advocates preferred more local control at the time.

Norman urged that the counties try to get the state and the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg involved.

"We heard two things from all of you tonight. You want us to keep the bridge and apply for the grant, and Commissioner Norman has just added a third with the state part," Harris concluded.

Committee hopes to save Friendship Trail Bridge 07/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Austin Mahone talks Pitbull, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, his pop evolution and more

    Blogs

    Austin Mahone has vivid memories from his childhood visits to see his grandparents in Tampa Bay.

  2. Motorcyclist killed in Pinellas Park crash, prompting road closures

    Accidents

    A motorcyclist was killed early Tuesday morning when he left the roadway and possibly struck a parked vehicle in Pinellas Park.

  3. Meet the five finalists for St. Petersburg College president

    College

    ST. PETERSBURG — In the last month, five finalists for the job of St. Petersburg College president have taken campus tours and answered questions from students, faculty and staff.

    The Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr., Midtown Center of St. Petersburg College, opened in 2015, is considered a major accomplishment by outgoing SPC president William Law. [SOPHIA NAHLI  ALLISON  |   TIMES]
  4. Austin Mahone performs at the Y100's Jingle Ball 2016 last December in Sunrise. Read our interview with him this morning. [Getty Images for iHeart]
  5. Clarity coming this week on Florida Gators, Malik Zaire

    Blogs

    After months of speculation, we could finally get some clarity this week on the Florida Gators and graduate transfer quarterback Malik Zaire.

    SEC flags outside the hotel of last year's spring meetings in Destin. This year's meetings could have a huge impact on the Florida Gators' season.