Pedestrians, joggers and cyclists will soon be able to gaze out from four overlooks on a new bridge being built alongside one of Florida's few scenic highways, the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
The 16-foot-wide bridge that spans the top of Tampa Bay is expected to open in November.
The state Department of Transportation is building the span at a cost of $14.6 million from federal enhancement money set aside for pedestrian projects.
"It sure is pretty up here," Kris Carson, DOT spokeswoman, said this week from the bridge's apex, 45 feet above the water.
About 80 bridge workers watched ospreys and pelicans, at least a dozen manatees, lots of fish, "and a 600-pound turtle that swam by one day," said Porter Reed, project administrator for Jacobs Engineering Group.
They snapped pictures of waterspouts and one day crouched on the bridge as a storm blew in.
Currently, cyclists on the Courtney Campbell are confined to 2-foot shoulders on the busy and fast-moving roadway. Carson said the new bridge is intended to make passage safe for pedestrians and cyclists.
Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay area has double the national average for pedestrian deaths, she said.
Drivers on the parkway watched for the past year as workers used barges and cranes to build 29 pilings and the spans between them, using more than 4,500 cubic yards of concrete.
Carson gets calls regularly asking if the bridge will be for cars. Others who know call to ask when it will open.
Construction of the 4-mile stretch is 95 percent complete, according to project managers. It will also include parking at both ends; on the west at the Pinellas/Hillsborough county line and to the east at Ben T. Davis Beach.
The span is expected to link up with other trails in the future, including a segment in Pinellas funded through the same project.
Workers are installing aluminum railings, finishing concrete walls on the last segment and painting. Other workers are laying asphalt to complete the trail close to the Pinellas side.
It will be the first motorless bridge to span the bay since the Friendship Trail Bridge adjacent to the Gandy Bridge closed in 2008.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.