It looks like it's the end of the road for the Friendship Trail Bridge.
The Friendship TrailBridge, a terrific bridge used by 600,000 annual users including thousands of Tampa Bay bicyclists, has been closed since Nov. 2008 because of structural problems. The Friendship TrailBridge opened on Dec. 11, 1999, linking Tampa and St. Petersburg.
This afternoon, I attended a meeting of the Hillsborough-Pinellas Friendship TrailBridge Oversight Committee, the government panel made up of Hillsborough and Pinellas county commissioners and citizens.
I appeared before both the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Commissions on behalf of SWFBUD to lobby both counties to seek federal aid to pay for an estimated $15 million to repairs to the TrailBridge to extend the life by 10 years. I also spoke out at two big public hearings in both counties last summer.
This afternoon at the committee meeting, an engineering report showed that the repair work has skyrocketed to $42 million from $15 million -- a new twist that prompted the committee to recommend to their respective county commissions to demolish the TrailBridge.
This sets into motion a government process that will mean the end of the TrailBridge. Cost to demolish: $13 million.
The woman in pink in the wheelchair made a final plea to the committee to keep the trailbridge, which she said she used to get outside and fish.
Experienced bicyclists still cross the current Gandy Bridge on its wide shoulders. But many casual bicyclists who don't feel comfortable on the Gandy Bridge shoulders with traffic going 60mph plus don't use the bridge.
SWFBUD today joined the Friendship TrailBrdge supporters in acknowleding that it is not responsible to seek $42 million in public dollars to extend the life of the TrailBridge.
SWFBUD will ask the DOT again to see if they retrofit the current westbound bridge with barriers to create a bikeway/walkway.
And SWFBUD supports any new bridge to have bicycling and pedestrian areas.