If the drive over the Sunshine Skyway after sunset seems darker than usual to you, you're not alone. The Doc has made a few nighttime round trips over the span recently, and I have to say I find myself clenching my teeth and gripping the wheel tightly on the incline. The bridge is uncomfortably dark for me.
I used to thoroughly enjoy driving across the bridge, day or night. When I was in high school, driving across the original twin span's grilled center section, which emitted a metalic hum as tires vibrated against the waffle-patterned steel, was a rite of passage for new drivers. It was exhilarating. Now it's like a scene from a recurring anxiety dream.
Now as I drive the Skyway, I get flashes in my head of The Mothman Prophecies movie, a fictionalized story built around the urban legend of a goblin-like creature appearing to locals before the very real 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge, which spanned the Ohio River.
Perhaps the problem is that I'm more in touch with my mortality lately. Or maybe it's simpler: The roadway leading to the main span seems really, really dark and it doesn't feel safe.
At least one reader shares my unease. He wrote:
"Why is it that every bridge in Tampa Bay has street lighting with the exception of the Skyway? The old Skyway had street lighting. Try driving the bridge during a storm at night or with the fog from the gulf.
"The safety of Florida Highway Patrol troopers that work the bridge nightly should be a concern. Also (there are) workers on the bridge almost nightly.
"The DOT has lighting all the way up to the bridge on both sides of the bay and then it stops at the bridge. They even have street lighting on the fishing piers … "
We checked in with the DOT's Kris Carson and asked her about the lighting on the Sunshine Skyway. Carson said the bridge usually does have lights that illuminate the cables at night, but because of the current painting project, they are turned off at the moment. New lights will be installed on the cables when the painting is completed later this summer. As for the roadway, Carson said the bridge was designed and constructed with no requirements for roadway lighting.
"The DOT has no plans to add roadway lighting (other than turning the cable stay lighting back on) to this section of road. We do monitor safety concerns and have no record of crashes attributed to the lack of lighting on the bridge or its approaches," Carson wrote in an e-mail.
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Be prepared for lane closures on major roadways this week in Largo and Palm Harbor.
In Largo, the middle northbound lane of Belcher Road just south of Park Boulevard will be closed today from 9:30 a.m. until around 11 a.m. as workers install water mains for reclaimed water.
In Palm Harbor, the installation of two reclaimed water mains is closing the right westbound lane of Tampa Road from County Road 1 to Alt. U.S. 19 N. Work there is scheduled to be completed for 5 p.m. Friday, weather permitting.
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If speeding is a problem in your neighborhood, the annual anticrime event, National Night Out, is a good opportunity for starting a community dialogue on the issue. National Night Out is observed the first Tuesday in August — this year the event falls on Aug. 5.
Many neighborhoods have planned events that involve the nonprofit Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 campaign, which steps up its education efforts this time of year as we head into the new school year.
For more information visit National Night Out's Web site at national townwatch.org/nno/ and the Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 Web site at keepkidsalivedrive25.org/.
Lorrie Lykins' Dr. Delay column runs regularly in South Pinellas editions of the Times. Please e-mail Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions. Check out Dr. Delay's Bay News 9 blog at baynews9.com/DrDelay.html to read more about commuting issues.