TrailBridge can't be saved
March 26, 2010
The Hillsborough and Pinellas county commissions are expected to decide next month to tear down the Friendship TrailBridge, now that a new review says it will cost too much to fix, according to a Hillsborough County engineer.
"It's pretty much a done deal," said Chris Bridges, an engineer with Hillsborough's public works department, who was assigned to oversee a review of options regarding the once-popular recreational bridge.
Bridges' remarks come after an oversight committee of eight people, including Hillsborough Commissioners Jim Norman and Al Higginbotham, unanimously voted this month to recommend the two county commission boards approve demolition.
"The estimated cost for repairs was deemed to be $48 million - well above the previous estimate of $15 million," wrote Calvin Harris, a Pinellas commissioner who serves as the chairman of the Friendship Trail Oversight Committee, in a March 19 letter to the two county commission boards.
Pinellas and Hillsborough counties jointly own the recreational bridge. The bridge was closed in December 2008 after engineers said its deteriorating pilings and rusting rebar made it unsafe.
The bridge was the only span crossing Old Tampa Bay that could be used by pedestrians, bicyclists and skaters. It was converted from the former westbound vehicular span of Gandy Bridge.
Harris and other members of the oversight committee had knowledge of a March 8 letter written by the vice president of EC Driver & Associates. The engineering firm took a look at the bridge, along with the costs to fix it.
Even the Friendship Trail Corp. - a private group that has fought to keep the bridge, and two of whose members sit on the oversight committee - agrees.
"It is with great reluctance that I can't find fault with the engineer's findings," said Frank Miller, the executive director of the group. "It appears the bridge just cannot be saved."
It is unknown when the bridge will be taken down as "neither county has the money to fund the demolition," Bridges said.
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