Repairs supported for Friendship TrailBridge
July 16, 2009
Members of the group helping decide the fate of the Friendship TrailBridge came away hearing two things Wednesday night.
One was support for the option for complete repair of the bridge, which is estimated to cost $15 million, and that people want to pursue grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"We thank you for helping us crystallize our thinking," said Calvin Harris, the Pinellas County Commission chairman and member of the Friendship TrailBridge Oversight Committee.
More than 250 people came to Wednesday's meeting, gathered in a library named for one of Hillsborough County's greatest supporters of the trail, Jan Platt. For those who spoke, the Friendship TrailBridge is more than concrete and steel.
It was someone's fishing hole for 50 years. It was the place one man asked his fianc√©e to marry him. It was where a woman went to get centered. For some with disabilities, it was a place they could feel equal.
"It's become an icon down here," said Andy Clark, owner of Street Fit 360/Trikke Tampa on Gandy Boulevard and a South Tampa resident. He used to cycle the trail three to fives times a week. "The sightseeing from the bridge is phenomenal."
What concerned some was the cost ‚?? ranging from $15 million for complete repair to $17.5 million for demolition and construction of two fishing piers at either end. Suggestions for further studies and recommended repair solutions were met with cheering from the crowd.
"There has to be less amounts of money to repair the bridge for people walking across it. I think this is totally bogus," Nancy Longanecker said. "Unless the Marines are going to tank across that bridge, I think it's unnecessary."
Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman said he'd like to see a more long-range plan, one that could make the trail into a state park and, thus, have more secure funding.
"This is why I said no 10 years ago," said Norman, who opposed the original idea to create the trail. "I knew then that $7 million wouldn't save it."
The committee will come up with a recommendation for elected officials in both counties with input from this week's community meetings.
"This trail is a fortuitous gift to this community," said Stephen Sears, a 66-year South Tampa resident. "The value to the community far outweighs the cost. This is a no-brainer: save the Friendship TrailBridge for our communities."