TAMPA — One day down (and a surprisingly smooth one at that), which means just 104 to go.
Monday's closure of the Platt Street bridge for a $13.8 million renovation was much more manageable than local officials had feared.
The morning rush hour cleared by 9:30 a.m.
"We were lucky today that there weren't any weather issues, and we didn't have any breakdowns at critical intersections," city transportation manager Jean Dorzback said. "The stars aligned pretty well."
On a typical day, 34,000 drivers cross the bridge from South Tampa into downtown.
On Monday, many apparently decided to take Kennedy Boulevard instead. Even then, some were sitting in traffic after an accident at the Kennedy exit from northbound Interstate 275 blocked one lane, slowing everyone to a crawl.
Others opted for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Other alternatives — the Laurel and Cass street bridges, for example — were little used.
Local officials posted a half-dozen police officers at potential trouble spots in Hyde Park. They also adjusted the timing of several traffic signals to ease the flow along Kennedy Boulevard. And they watched live video feeds from cameras trained on downtown intersections to spot trouble early.
School officials reported no problems with buses getting stuck in traffic. Only one student was late to Gorrie Elementary School and three were tardy at Wilson Middle School because of the extra congestion, school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
In the afternoon, traffic was heavy on North Boulevard, and it was tough for employees leaving Tampa General Hospital from 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. But city officials made some adjustments in Hyde Park, and hospital police stopped traffic on side streets to help the hospital campus empty after the 3 p.m. shift change. The hospital also increased the number of buses shuttling employees to remote parking lots to seven from five.
By 5:45 p.m., hospital manager of security and transportation Tony Venezia could say, "we are flowing like melted butter over here."
The three-month upgrade to the 85-year-old drawbridge will replace its metal deck and electrical controls, repair aged concrete and steel and recondition or replace the gears and other mechanical parts of the bridge.
Hillsborough County Public Works spokesman Steve Valdez said the traffic backups should be bad for only a day or two "until people figure out what alternate routes work for them."