TAMPA — Nearly halfway through the job to repair and renovate the Platt Street bridge, contractors have opened up its 85-year-old machinery and, to their relief, have found no unpleasant surprises.
"It is running right on schedule," Hillsborough County Public Works Department spokesman Steve Valdez said of the $13.8 million project to update the draw bridge. "No unforeseen anythings and everything seems like it's working just fine."
That means the bridge, which carries 34,000 cars and trucks a day from South Tampa into downtown, is on track to be finished on time and to reopen in mid January.
Meanwhile, the bridge closure has caused less disruption and congestion than officials feared.
"We are really pleased that it's sort of balanced itself out," Tampa transportation manager Jean Dorzback said. The city has tweaked the timing of some traffic signals, and off-duty police officers likely will continue to direct traffic at Plant Avenue and Cleveland Street and at Plant and Kennedy Boulevard.
Hillsborough County school officials say they have no reports of bus or other transportation problems from Wilson Middle School, Gorrie Elementary School, Rampello Downtown Partnership School or Plant High School.
Even Tampa General Hospital has seen fewer backups than expected at its 7,000-employee campus on Davis Islands.
Hospital shuttles, which carry some 600 employees, medical students and nursing students to and from parking lots across the bridge from Davis Islands, encounter occasional problems, but they've been minimal.
"Our bus drivers watch that traffic, and if it starts to back up we reroute the buses around the backups," hospital manager of security and transportation Tony Venezia said.