Pinellas nixes federal funding for TrailBridge
August 19, 2009
It's not the end of the road for the Friendship TrailBridge, but the popular span's chances for survival got a little dimmer Tuesday afternoon.
Pinellas County commissioners voted not to apply for a federal transportation grant to make $15 million in repairs to the bridge. The vote is opposite the action taken by Hillsborough County commissioners, who voted 5-2 this month to apply for federal stimulus funding to fix the bridge.
Tuesday's vote came after Pinellas commissioners heard pleas to preserve the structure from those who have worked to save it from the moment it was turned over to both counties almost a decade ago.
"I'm urging you as strongly as I can, don't let us down now. We've worked very hard on this, and so has this commission for the last 12 years," said Frank Miller, executive director of a nonprofit group pushing officials to reopen the recreational trail.
Several commissioners voiced concern about the cost of fixing the aging bridge and maintaining it.
"It's borrowed Chinese stimulus money," Commissioner John Morroni said. "That's what it is. It's not property tax dollars. It's not sales tax dollars. But it is people's money."
The bridge, which spans Tampa Bay between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and was popular for walkers, bikers and anglers, closed in December. Engineers say deteriorating pilings and rusting rebar make it unsafe, and a consultant's report estimates it would cost $15 million for repairs that would last about 10 years.
Pinellas County staff told commissioners the grant probably would not make the cut and would be competing with other county grant applications.
All is not lost for Friendship TrailBridge supporters. A trail oversight committee will explore other grants that could be used for bridge restoration, but even Miller doesn't have much confidence that plan will yield federal funding.
"The money is going to go somewhere," he said. "It's already allocated, $1.5 billion. Oshkosh, Wisconsin, might get the money that could have gone to Tampa Bay."
Back to Tampa Tribune Page. . .
Back to Home Page. . .