Trail's future flimsy
May 27, 2009
An engineering report released Tuesday confirms the worst fears of thousands of people who once used the Friendship TrailBridge.
The report confirmed earlier findings that the bridge's girders are heavily corroded and broken. A full repair would cost $15 million and would only prolong the bridge's life by 10 years before it had to be demolished.
Some Hillsborough County commissioners have questioned whether the county, in its strapped financial condition, can afford to make a huge investment with such a short-lived payoff.
Other options in the engineering reports by Kisinger Campo & Associates and SDR Engineering Consultants:
•Repairing the spans from the entrances in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties to the ends of the catwalks would cost $10 million, which would include demolishing the high span in the middle. The repaired sections would be structurally sound for only 10 years.
•Demolishing the bridge and building two new fishing piers at either end of the current bridge would cost $17.5 million. The piers might have to be relocated when a new Gandy Bridge is built several decades from now.
•Demolishing the bridge and building fishing piers off a new Gandy Bridge would cost $13 million to demolish the bridge and an estimated $6.5 million to build the piers.
At a meeting Tuesday, the report was presented to the Friendship Trail Oversight Committee at the Jan Platt Library, 3901 S. Manhattan Ave.
Frank Miller, executive director of the Friendship Trail Corp., which raises money for the trail, was at the meeting.
"What gives new hope are the four options," said Miller, who said his group favors the full $15 million repair. "That's what the citizens support. It is the only option that keeps the bridge open in both counties."
Public meetings will be scheduled in June in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
The full report, along with photos, can be seen at www.hillsboroughcounty .org/publicworks; click on publications link.
After the trail closed in December, early repair estimates ranged from $4.1 million to fix the ends of the bridge to $81.8 million to demolish the old bridge and build a new one.
The Friendship TrailBridge is the renovated former westbound span of Gandy Bridge. In 1997, a nonprofit group formed to save the span from demolition. Using $7 million in state money marked for the demolition, the group converted the span into a linear parkway for bicyclists, pedestrians and anglers that opened in December 1999.
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