Sunday, May 27, 2018
Transportation

New opening date for Columbus Drive Bridge: July 24

TAMPA — In February, when the county shut down the main gateway to his riverside restaurant, Ken Brackins worried business would not fare well.

His prediction was accurate: He says business at Rick's on the River has been off 40 percent since the Columbus Drive Bridge was temporarily closed for major repairs.

"How can you make that up?" Brackins said.

It has been a longer-than-planned wait for the businesses and residents who depend on the historic swing bridge spanning the Hillsborough River.

First the $8.6 million rehabilitation was supposed to be finished in late May. Then late June. Now, July 24.

County public works spokesman Steve Valdez likened the work to the renovation of an old home. Sometimes, everything goes as planned. Other times, there are surprises lurking behind the drywall.

The steel beams? They were so bad they needed to be replaced, not repaired. The asphalt on the approaches to the bridge? Turned out it's built on sand, and workers had to build a new foundation. The drive shafts? Flattened by old bearings.

And then there has been the recent rain.

"Every time you just say, 'Oh, Lord,' " said Valdez.

All the unforeseen work adds up to about $150,000. The money will come from a contingency fund set aside as part of the contract, said Valdez.

The county can't hold the contractor responsible for delays because the new work was not part of the original contract, he added.

About 20,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge, an artery for residents heading to and from the airport, International Mall and the West Shore area. It's also a popular route to Armenia Avenue and Interstate 275.

The Columbus Drive Bridge is among a handful in Florida that pivot horizontally on a stationary axis. Originally called the Michigan Avenue Bridge, it was renamed in 1943 when Michigan Avenue was changed to Columbus Drive. Developers looking to sell houses near the river financed most of the initial construction, but the city and a company that operated streetcars chipped in as well.

In recent years, large sections of the concrete deck and curb were crumbling, and the metal support beams and gears that open and close the bridge were rusted and chipped, making it nearly inoperable. Valdez said that when the bridge would open for boat traffic and close again, a worker had to slip underneath with a 2 by 4 to bang the locking pins into place.

The goal of the project is to marry modern engineering with the historic design.

"The bridge will look as close to identical as the way it was when it opened," he said.

He said critics who say the county should have maintained it better throughout the years are "probably right."

"But you do it when money is available," he said.

Riverside Heights resident Barry Shalinsky said the closure has caused some frustration in the neighborhood.

"It's meant changing some habits, and it's inconvenient," said Shalinsky. "Having said that . . . I'm glad they're fixing it, and I'm glad they're taking the time to do it right."

Over at Rick's restaurant, Brackins said he has an idea for letting his old lunchtime crowd know next month that the easy route is open again.

"We'll have a big bridge opening party," he said.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.

Comments
Part of Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard closed through at least 5 p.m.

Part of Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard closed through at least 5 p.m.

Both southbound lanes of Bayshore Boulevard between W. Barcelona and W. Rubideaux streets are closed while the Tampa Water Department repairs a water main break.The repair and roadway restoration work is expected to be completed by 5 p.m. Sunday but ...
Published: 05/27/18
She was looking at paperwork to buy a car. Then she had to confirm that she was not a robot.

She was looking at paperwork to buy a car. Then she had to confirm that she was not a robot.

Marci Robin was reviewing the usual paperwork when she was about to buy her Fiat 500X from a West Palm Beach car dealership on Tuesday.Then she had to verify, in person via pen and paper, that she was not a robot, Jalopnik reported.I bought a car tod...
Published: 05/23/18
Pilot-hungry airlines are raiding flight schools - creating a shortage of instructors to train the next generation

Pilot-hungry airlines are raiding flight schools - creating a shortage of instructors to train the next generation

Airlines’ insatiable demand for pilots threatens to sabotage flight schools’ ability to train new ones. Carriers are raising wages and hoarding every available pilot - including the instructors schools rely on to teach incoming students.The very pilo...
Published: 05/23/18
Investigators insist MH370 crash was an accident, not a mass murder-suicide by pilot

Investigators insist MH370 crash was an accident, not a mass murder-suicide by pilot

A despondent Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, troubled over the end of his marriage or some other unbearable sadness, was the only person awake on the doomed plane full of unconscious people, one theory goes. The suicidal pilot disabled communications on Ma...
Published: 05/22/18
Florida has a gem of an idea to move traffic on and off I-75. It's called diverging diamonds

Florida has a gem of an idea to move traffic on and off I-75. It's called diverging diamonds

TAMPA — Driving on the wrong side of the road isn’t just for the British any more under an innovative plan for moving traffic through three local Interstate 75 interchanges. Construction will soon begin on a $37 million, three-year proje...
Published: 05/21/18
More parking for the Straz Center? So far, the proposal is getting little traction

More parking for the Straz Center? So far, the proposal is getting little traction

TAMPA — Parking has been a problem at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts since downtown began to emerge from the recession nearly a decade ago.The crunch looks likely to continue.A Straz plan to expand parking at its arrival plaza ...
Published: 05/18/18
More St. Petersburg residents using bike-share program on a regular basis

More St. Petersburg residents using bike-share program on a regular basis

ST. PETERSBURG — Cycling downtown on a blue basket bicycle has proven to be a popular pastime, according to the first yearly report provided by the Coast Bike Share. In an update presented to the St. Petersburg City Council, Coast announced that 45,6...
Published: 05/16/18
Co-pilot sucked halfway out of plane after windshield cracks over China

Co-pilot sucked halfway out of plane after windshield cracks over China

Getting sucked halfway out of a plane window is the stuff of movies and nightmares and it happens extremely rarely.But in mid-April, a female passenger died after being partially sucked out of a Southwest Airlines flight when one of the aircraft’s en...
Published: 05/16/18
MH370 experts think they’ve finally solved the mystery of the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight

MH370 experts think they’ve finally solved the mystery of the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight

All but one of the 239 people on the doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had probably been unconscious — incapacitated by the sudden depressurization of the Boeing 777 — and had no way of knowing that they were on an hours-long, meandering path to th...
Published: 05/15/18
Pasco buries tunnel proposal at U.S. 41 and SR 54

Pasco buries tunnel proposal at U.S. 41 and SR 54

DADE CITY — Transportation planners are burying the idea of tunneling under U.S. 41 to ease traffic congestion at the road’s intersection with State Road 54 in central Pasco.Even with the conceptual cost dropping $300 million, Pasco’s elected county...
Published: 05/11/18
Updated: 05/13/18