Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas close to funding demolition of Friendship Trail bridge

The Friendship Trail Bridge, built almost 60 years ago, was shut as a walkway in 2008 because of structural problems.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times (2011)

The Friendship Trail Bridge, built almost 60 years ago, was shut as a walkway in 2008 because of structural problems.

Pinellas County commissioners are poised Tuesday to earmark the final funds to demolish the Friendship Trail.

The $515,000 from the Penny for Pinellas money would be sent to Hillsborough County, which shares ownership of the bridge. It would be added to the $2 million Pinellas has already sent to Hillsborough to pay for half of the demolition cost. Hillsborough will provide the rest of the estimated $5.2 million.

But Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch said the vote won't automatically doom the bridge because it only puts the money in place to use once a bid is awarded.

"It doesn't end the prospect of the Friendship Trail Bridge being saved, but it is down to the ninth inning (and there are) two outs," Welch said. "If everything works out, there's still a possibility it can be saved."

Welch said he met Friday with two backers of a recent plan to save the bridge. The two are part of a group that submitted a proposal to Hillsborough earlier this month. Their idea is to transform the bridge into a park over the water, with amenities such as ice cream kiosks and gardens.

Welch said he liked the concept, but he's not sure it can be pulled off.

The two are hoping, he said, that the company that has submitted the winning demolition bid will hold that $5.2 million price firm for six months while a feasibility study of the park idea is completed. That way, the counties won't risk spending more because the demolition price went up while waiting.

"The county wouldn't be at risk," Welch said.

Welch said the biggest hurdle to transforming the bridge would be the financing. The initial construction cost is about $19.5 million. The group says it can raise about $13 million of that from donations and wants governments to supply the rest.

Welch is doubtful because past efforts to raise money from the private sector to save the bridge have failed.

"It's all going to come down to dollars," Welch said. "I'm not optimistic they can meet all the challenges but they still have a small" amount of time.

Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield agreed with Welch, saying he likes the concept but doubts it can be done.

"They've got some good ideas, but I don't see where all the money's coming from either to build and maintain this," Brickfield said. "I would love to see their vision of the Friendship Trail come to reality. I just don't see it happening in this environment without a lot of government money that we don't have."

Brickfield said the counties also have to worry about maintaining the trail. That may be money neither county can afford.

While Welch and Brickfield were impressed with the concept, Pinellas County staff members were less enthusiastic.

Staff members say that, among other things, the plan fails to protect all the pilings from corrosion. They also say the group severely underestimated some costs.

They conclude in their recommendation to Pinellas commissioners: "Pinellas County staff considers the total bid (of about $5.2 million) to be a very competitive and responsive price for demolition of the entire facility. As such, we support Hillsborough County's plans for demolition of the bridge structure, and consider it to be the most fiscally responsible action plan from an engineering and liability perspective."

The bridge, which spans the bay at Gandy Boulevard, was built almost 60 years ago and has lasted past its 50-year life expectancy.

The Florida Department of Transportation closed the bridge in 1995 because it had become unsafe for vehicles. The DOT wanted to demolish the center portion and leave the remainder as fishing piers. Four years later, Pinellas and Hillsborough took over the bridge and opened it to pedestrian traffic.

In 2008, the counties shut the bridge after a state inspection revealed structural problems with the pylons and consultants warned that it was so degraded it might collapse. Engineers also said the bridge's steel tendons are rusting and chunks of concrete occasionally fall into the bay. That puts boaters at risk of injury, they say.

Engineers looked at it again in 2010 and estimated it would cost about $48 million to repair. Both commissions voted to demolish it.

Since then, several groups have tried to persuade commissioners that they could save the bridge by raising money through donations. But efforts have fallen short. The newest group says it could succeed because it plans to transform the structure.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Pinellas close to funding demolition of Friendship Trail bridge 05/20/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 24, 2012 12:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fennelly: Bucs' Roberto Aguayo has his backers, no matter how many kicks he misses

    Bucs

    He was perfect Friday, and not just because he didn't have to kick.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) takes a photo with fans following the first day of training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 28, 2017.
  2. Starbucks to close all Teavana locations, including five in Tampa Bay

    Retail

    Local Teavana locations include Tyrone Square in St. Petersburg, International Plaza and Westfield Citrus Park in Tampa, Brandon and Clearwater.

    Starbucks announced Thursday plans to shut down all 379 Teavana stores, citing "underperformance." Starbucks acquired the mall-based tea chain for $620 million in 2012. [ CANDICE CHOI | AP file photo]
  3. What to watch this weekend: 'The Last Tycoon,' 'Room 104,' 'Rick and Morty'

    Blogs

    Checking in: Room 104

    Listen up, fans of Hitchcock and American Horror Story. Room 104 might be your next obsession. With a premise that feels experimental, Room 104 explores one of film's most traditional styles - telling a story from the inside of just one room. The HBO series is from …

    Each episode of Room 104 follows the guests of a single motel rom and the strange and wonderful things they experience.
  4. Rubio: I intend to keep campaign promises on Obamacare

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio says he remains committed to overturning Obamacare following the collapse of the latest attempt.

  5. Family spokeswoman: British baby Charlie Gard has died

    World

    LONDON — Charlie Gard, the critically ill British baby at the center of a legal battle that attracted the attention of Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump, has died. He would have turned 1 next week.

    This is an undated photo of sick baby Charlie Gard provided by his family, taken at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. [Family of Charlie Gard via AP]