1. Transportation

Palm River will be without Maydell Drive Bridge until 2019 or later

The underwater pilings of the Maydell Drive Bridge in Palm River can no longer support the weight of the span let alone a daily load of traffic, an engineering study concluded. About 2,700 vehicles used the bridge every day. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
The underwater pilings of the Maydell Drive Bridge in Palm River can no longer support the weight of the span let alone a daily load of traffic, an engineering study concluded. About 2,700 vehicles used the bridge every day. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Jun. 1, 2017

PALM RIVER — A year and a half after the Maydell Drive Bridge was closed as unsound, the people who relied on it still are taking detours.

That's not likely to change for at least a couple more years.

The 616-foot long bridge carried traffic over the Tampa Bypass Canal and needs to be replaced entirely, Hillsborough County officials have learned. That will take until 2020 at the earliest.

"Following closure of the bridge the county conducted an engineering analysis to determine if the bridge could be repaired and reopened," said Jim Hudock, technical services director with the public works department. He said it "resulted in the conclusion that complete replacement of the bridge was required."

Hillsborough County closed the bridge in December 2015 after an independent engineering study found it was structurally unsound.

The 344-page report by HDR Engineering Inc. recommended on Dec. 17, 2015, that the structure — then 47 years old — be "closed to traffic immediately" because its underwater pilings could no longer support the weight of the span let alone a daily load of traffic. About 2,700 vehicles used the bridge every day.

Four days after the report, the county announced it was closing the bridge.

The Maydell Drive Bridge crosses the Tampa Bypass Canal just south of the Selmon Expressway and connects the Palm River community to State Road 60. Without it, cars have been detoured to U.S. 41 and 78th Street.

Those are much busier thoroughfares than the Maydell Drive, a two-lane road, and its closure has added to growing congestion in the Palm River area.

It will cost $6 million for Hillsborough County to replace the bridge. The project was included in the county's 2017 budget.

But it will take several more years for the bridge to open because of federal hurdles. The county first needs environmental approval from the Army Corps of Engineers as well as the go-ahead from the U.S. Coast Guard "due to the navigable waters status of Palm River," Hudock said.

Construction is expected to begin in February 2019 and will take one year.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, who represents Palm River, said he's concerned the money set aside for the project could dry up before then.

While commissioners recently designated $800 million for transportation projects over the next decade, the county could lose $25 million a year if voters approve a homestead exemption next year. State lawmakers added the additional $25,000 exemption on property taxes to the 2018 ballot.

"We're in deep trouble if that passes," Miller said. "That bridge won't be looked at in 2019 if that passes."

Commissioner Sandy Murman likened the impact to the Maydell Drive situation to another lengthy bridge closure in her district, on Second Street in Ruskin.

First closed in 2014, the bridge, also about 50 years old, is causing traffic nightmares for locals with its closure. It will cost $1.5 million to replace the Second Street Bridge and construction will begin in 2019.

Murman said she has been assured that all other bridges in the county have been inspected and these are the only two in such poor condition.

"This is a situation where we haven't had the money to do it," Murman said. "It's very unfortunate."

Contact Steve Contorno at and (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.


  1. A wrong-way driver headed south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Pasco County caused a crash that resulted in the death of a 45-year-old motorcyclist, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.  Over a three-year period ending in 2018, the county averaged 97 traffic fatalities annually. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  2. Luis Espel, 22, uses the Cass Street bike lane to commute to work in Tampa. Times (2019)
  3. Hillsborough County Commission chair Les Miller.
  4. FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo Southwest pilots prepare for a flight at Tampa International Airport in Tampa, Fla.  (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)
  5. Tampa International Airport,
  6. Now in its second year, the Cross-Bay Ferry sails daily, November through April, from St. Petersburg to Tampa and back. Ridership so far this year has nearly doubled over the same period last year.
  7. Ben Limmer addresses the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board Friday before being terminated as chief executive officer.
  8. One reader wrote to Dr. Delay suggesting the state post more signs that read: "Slower traffic keep right" on the highways to ease traffic stacking up in the left lane. (Times)
  9. Florida stopped providing free juice at welcome centers last year. [Times (2015)]
  10. Chief executive Ben Limmer attended a special meeting of the Hillsborough County transit agency board where members voted to fire him.
  11. The Sierra Club is suing federal environmental regulators to try to block the extension of Ridge Road in Pasco County through a nature preserve.
  12. The St. Petersburg City Council voted Thursday to expand its bike share program by replacing its existing bikes with new ones and adding 50 electric bikes.