Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Commissioner, and passionate crowd, want more life for Friendship Trail

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

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 their support for the 54-year-old landmark.

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

Option 1 would be to find $15 million in revenue to repair the entire structure, which will grant the bridge about 10 more years of life, he said.

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

Ben Ritter, government relations director for the local Paralyzed Veterans of America chapter, told the committee demolishing the bridge would have to be paid out of county budgets, but there is a federal government grant that could pay for repairs and cost the counties only time in applying.

"Let's grab that tiger by the tail," he said.

The oversight committee took no formal vote Wednesday, but Harris said they have a "consensus'' that Hillsborough and Pinellas counties should try to salvage the entire bridge, and that is what they will recommend to the respective county commissions.

But two members of the Hillsborough County Commission were participating in the committee Wednesday, and they sounded skeptical.

Hillsborough Commissioner Al Higginbotham said he found it troubling that an investment of $15 million would extend the bridge's life only a decade.

"Before Tuesday night's meeting, 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 because of the DOT's plans."

Hillsborough Commissioner Jim Norman was also concerned about the fiscal responsibility of the project. "When I voted against this project all those years ago, it was because I knew this would happen," he said.

Norman called the project "a ticking time bomb" and said when it was proposed 10 years ago he wanted to approach the state to get the bridge declared a state park, such as the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park northeast of Jacksonville.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or

Commissioner, and passionate crowd, want more life for Friendship Trail 07/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 17, 2009 11:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Trump assaults rule of law by attacking attorney general


    Jeff Sessions was a terrible choice for attorney general, and the policies he has pursued in his brief tenure — cracking down on immigrants, bullying sheriffs, prosecuting low-level offenders to the max — are counterproductive. But the stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Sessions this …

    The stinging personal attacks President Donald Trump leveled at Attorney General Jess Sessions this week assault the integrity of the Department of Justice and the rule of law.
  2. Iowa group sues United over death of giant rabbit, Simon


    DES MOINES, Iowa — A group of Iowa businessmen filed a lawsuit Wednesday against United Airlines over the death of Simon, a giant rabbit whose lifeless body was discovered in a kennel after a flight from London to Chicago.

    In this May 8, 2017 file photo, attorney Guy Cook speaks a news conference while looking at a photo of Simon, a giant rabbit that died after flying from the United Kingdom to Chicago, in Des Moines, Iowa. A group of Iowa businessmen have filed a lawsuit against United Airlines over the death of Simon. The businessmen filed the lawsuit Wednesday, July 26, 2017, more than three months after airline workers found the continental rabbit named Simon dead. [AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]
  3. Elderly Brooksville woman dies in Wednesday crash


    BROOKSVILLE — An 87-year-old woman died following a Wednesday morning car crash, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  4. As Dow hits new high, Raymond James Financial reports record financial gains


    On the same day that the Dow closed at new highs, investment firm Raymond James Financial reported record revenues and earnings for its fiscal third quarter that ended June 30.

    Raymond James Financial CEO Paul Reilly unveiled record quarterly revenues and earnings for the St. Petersburg-based investment firm. [Courtesy of Raymond James Financial]
  5. 5 things to know about the Senate's bid to unwind the Affordable Care Act


    Senate Republicans undertook the first steps in their plan to repeal the Affordable Care this week, launching a process they hope will yield a GOP health-care bill by week's end.

    Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., talks with reporters as he walks to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in Washington. Corker was one of nine republican senators to vote against the health care bill in the Senate. The U.S. Senate will continue debate on the Better Care Reconciliation Act. [Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images]