ST. PETERSBURG — Nina Pollauf, principal of Shore Acres Elementary School, worried last Friday when she heard about the 40th Avenue bridge closing for emergency repairs.
The bridge is the main span that connects Shore Acres and Venetian Isles with the Old Northeast and Northeast Park neighborhoods and the Publix shopping center near Fourth Street. Pollauf worried what the rerouting of traffic via Snell Isle Boulevard NE Bridge and the Bayou Grande Boulevard access from 62nd Avenue N would mean for traffic.
But on Monday, after the school and other Shore Acres institutions put out notices and maps on their websites and social media, the pickup circle outside Shore Acres had cleared after about half an hour after dismissal time — the same as any other day.
"It really has gone smoothly," Pollauf said. "There was a slight backup in the morning, but parents heeded the information and it went smoothly.
Greg Cahue, who drops off and picks up his daughter from Shore Acres Elementary, said the closure was a minor inconvenience.
"With all the traffic diverted, it clogs up this area," he said. But in all he said his drive time was only increased by about 10 minutes.
St. Petersburg Public Works Communication Manager Bill Logan said the bridge should open in both directions by early next week, sooner than anticipated. Once lanes are opened on the outer portion of the bridge, repairs to the older, center portion where structural deficiencies were found, will begin.
Logan said most of the feedback he's heard from the community has been relief that a safety issue was avoided rather than the inconvenience of added drive time.
Rev. William Stenke of Lutheran Church of the Cross said the church was initially concerned about how members would get to church and to the LCC Day School, which started Wednesday, but last Sunday only a few regular members didn't attend.
"The vast majority are adapting," he said. "I'm thankful they caught this and there was not some tragedy on the bridge. It's a good reminder of the need for a church or a school to have a solid means of communication with its population."
David Delrahim, president of the Shore Acres Civic Association, who used Nextdoor and Facebook to help spread the message, said the inconveniences he's seen have been minor so far.
He's hopeful once the bridge is stabilized the city will consider the association's vote to rebuild a new, higher bridge that would allow for bigger boats to pass through.
"It appears that the biggest issue for raising the bridge is several layers of approval by the (Florida Department of Transportation)," he said. "It's a lengthy process to get it approved by the state and FDOT. If we have to expedite it then we have to see whether the FDOT would approve raising the bridge, which would hinder the city's ability to weigh in."
Contact Divya Kumar at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @divyadivyadivya.