Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Fiddling as old bridge crumbles

The old Gandy Bridge had a good life in retirement as an over-the-water recreational path called the Friendship Trail Bridge. But Hillsborough County has spent five years toying with the notion that a private sector sponsor will step forward and take this crumbling liability off the taxpayers' hands. It's time the county find a developer or move ahead with demolition.

County officials will spend the next three months drafting bid requests for private sponsors interested in the bridge. This marks at least the third round of floating trial balloons looking to find a suitor. Gandy was closed to vehicular traffic in 1997 after the new bridge was built, but the county converted the old span into the Friendship Trail at the request of preservationists. The trail, which links South Tampa to Pinellas County, attracted hundreds of thousands of pedestrians, cyclists and runners every year. But the county closed it in 2008 after engineers reported the underside was cracking and unsafe.

Several proposals to save the bridge have come and gone over the past few years, but the hurdle has been the same: money. The county doesn't want to spend more tax money on upkeep — much less on the major overhaul the span would need — and no private entity has stepped up to pay for a redevelopment project that could cost up to $25 million.

It's unclear whether three more months will shake out a deal when the bridge and its much-touted potential have been so visible on the public radar. Hillsborough County commissioners have been patient and supportive in trying to find a new owner and purpose for the bridge. The trail is a nice amenity, but the county has better priorities for its parks budget. It's time to either find a private sponsor or to tear down the bridge before the demolition costs go up or someone near it gets hurt.

The county needs to ensure that any applicants have a solid business plan to guard against having the bridge end up back in public hands. Any new use needs to serve a broad public benefit and, ideally, be accessible from both sides of the bay. Officials should be cautious about any plan that overcommercializes the waterfront. And any venture must include protections that ensure the taxpayers will not be liable for demolishing any new structures. Spending a few more months working to save the trail is fine. But if the numbers still cannot work, it's time the county moved on before the expense of keeping the bridge gets even worse.

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Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

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Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17