Pedestrian trail alongside Courtney Campbell Causeway is open

A new bridge keeps walkers and cyclists away from traffic on Courtney Campbell.

A bridge that runs alongside the Courtney Campbell Causeway is now open for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Joggers were seen running across the 16-foot-wide bridge's apex, 45 feet above the water, throughout the day Monday.

The bridge is the only motorless span over Tampa Bay since the Friendship Trail Bridge, adjacent to the Gandy Bridge, closed in 2008.

The state Department of Transportation built the 4-mile span at a cost of $14.6 million from federal enhancement money set aside for pedestrian projects, said Kris Carson, DOT spokeswoman.

While the bridge is complete, workers are still finishing a section of the trail close to Ben T. Davis Beach, Carson said. She asked that pedestrians respect that construction zone.

Drivers on the causeway watched for the past year as workers used barges and cranes to construct the bridge, pounding in 29 pilings and building spans between them with 910,000 pounds of reinforcing steel and more than 4,500 cubic yards of concrete. They spread 4,200 tons of asphalt.

It's a great spot for workouts, said a group of three from a nearby business who do a daily boot camp of sprints, lunges and pushups. Brad Barton said they will now add a run across the bridge.

Albert Cardentey pointed out dolphins from the bridge as he cast his line for mackerel and peace of mind. Cardentey, 51, used to fish from the Friendship Trail Bridge, and hopes this one will allow fishing.

Before the new bridge opened, cyclists on the Courtney Campbell were 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.

Parking is available at both ends — on the west at the base of the bridge and to the east at two new lots between the bridge and Ben T. Davis Beach, where the trail ends.

Ultimately, the span is expected to link up with other trails, including a segment in Pinellas funded through the same project.

Jill Fausey, 61, regularly ran along the causeway before the bridge was built and can't wait to try it out. Out for a walk at the base of the bridge with a friend on Monday, she watched sandpipers feasting on fish.

She runs along, she said, and enjoys the view on one of Florida's scenic highways.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.