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Everyday Tampa Bay: Daddy's Bridges

Jason Evans, left, along with his father, Buddy Evans, at the controls in the tower of the Laurel Street Bridge in Tampa. Buddy is now retired, but Jason carries on the family business. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Jason Evans, left, along with his father, Buddy Evans, at the controls in the tower of the Laurel Street Bridge in Tampa. Buddy is now retired, but Jason carries on the family business. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Nov. 4, 2018

On his fifth birthday, Jason Evans went to work with his dad, which was not how he wanted to celebrate.

But when your dad is a drawbridge operator, there are perks.

Jason remembers running up and down the steel steps of the Laurel Street Bridge.

And learning about big gears and electrical panels.

And waving at the boats below and the people walking across.

Most important, he remembers spending time with his father, which was his favorite part.

Buddy Evans has since retired, but now he sometimes goes to work with Jason.

Jason, 44, is an electrical technician and drawbridge operator for the city of Tampa, working on the same bridges Buddy once tended.

"He's really proud of what we've been doing here," Jason said. "Proud of me. Proud of the rest of the guys, too."

In addition to the drawbridge at Laurel Street, operators maintain four others across the Hillsborough River: on Platt Street, Brorein Street, Cass Street and Columbus Drive. Most of them date to the 1920s.

The operators get a view of the water and downtown Tampa that most people don't get to see. "It's very nice, very relaxing, very peaceful," Jason said.

Jason now brings his kids to visit. He has a 13-year-old daughter, Dailynn, and an 8-year-old son, Tyler.

Tyler, who is always building things with Legos and tinkering with toys, loves the bridges.

Jason hopes he'll be an engineer someday, but he also can see Tyler following in the family footsteps.

When he was younger, he'd call them Pappy's Bridges.

Now, though, they're Daddy's Bridges.

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