I'm saddened to hear that the Gandy Bridge's Friendship Trail has structural problems and will be closed. It's a bicyclist's main way to get from one side of the bay to the other (I go across the Clearwater causeway, but few others do).
Here's the scoop from the St. Petersburg Times.
The middle of the Friendship Trail Bridge will close at 5 p.m. today because officials found significant structural damage during an inspection Tuesday, said Meg Korakis, a spokeswoman for Pinellas County.
"It's that hump right in the middle," Korakis said.
The span will be closed for at least 30 days, she said. Depending on what officials find, it could stay closed longer.
The counties hired a private engineering firm for the inspection after the Florida Department of Transportation found problems in a few similar types of bridges, such as the Skyway Fishing Pier. The inspection revealed corroded steel close to end supports and exposed tendons.
Hillsborough and Pinellas counties had planned to spend $4.2-million on repairs based on a 2007 inspection, said Hillsborough County Public Works Director Bob Gordon. In the past 18 months, damage has worsened, he said, and would require more money to repair. He did not sound optimistic about prospects for the bridge's future. He said officials think it's not safe to let anyone on the bridge.
Hillsborough commissioners could consider terminating a contract with a construction company hired to repair parts of the bridge now that the recent inspection found that needed repairs exceed current construction plans.
Representatives from counties will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. in the parking lot on the Pinellas side of the trail.