Pardon us, Florida Department of Transportation, if we Clearwater folk aren't as nonchalant as you are about those cracks that have suddenly appeared in the new Memorial Causeway Bridge.
Discovered not by state inspectors, but by a St. Petersburg Times photographer, the cracks are several feet long and several inches wide and are leaking what looks suspiciously like rust.
The cracks are on the underside of the bridge on the mainland end. You looked at the pictures of the cracks and said you'd send someone out to take a look within the next few weeks. You didn't seem concerned.
Well, those workers took that look and found even more cracks. Not to worry, you said. They are "not of a nature that would give us concerns," said your bridge engineer, Pepe Garcia.
He said the cracks would be studied to see if water is leaking into the places where the cracks have formed and whether the water has damaged any of the steel reinforcing structures under the concrete. And then the cracks will be cleaned out and patched … sometime within the next year, Garcia said.
We understand that you know more about this than we do. The people of Clearwater are not bridge engineers.
But we remember driving over that old drawbridge that rattled and bumped and kept getting stuck in the open or closed position, and recall how you didn't plan to replace it for another 20 years — until the City of Clearwater came up with some money to do it.
And we remember how a section of the new bridge, while it was still under construction, sank and twisted and had to be torn down.
And how some bridge columns developed cracks so significant that new ones had to be built around them.
And then how a section of the roadway sank 7 inches overnight when temporary scaffolding supporting it buckled. And then new cracks developed in the south span that had to be repaired.
We aren't superstitious or anything, FDOT, but you have to admit that your new bridge, beautiful though it is, has had more than its share of problems.
And so, when Clearwater folks seem a little worried about the appearance of cracks leaking rust-colored stuff in a 3-year-old bridge, don't pat us on the head. Get your people out there. Find out what's causing the problem. And then give us a detailed explanation and a time table for the repairs.
Because we're the one who have to drive that bridge every day.