Thursday, May 10, 2012

SWFBUD Statement On Plan To Renew Friendship TrailBridge

Why give the closed Friendship TrailBridge a makeover?

Let's look at the big picture: It's all about economic competition between major urban markets in this country.

When companies go shopping for cities to call home, they visit urban centers with a checklist that includes everything from schools to parks.

Tampa Bay's biggest calling card is our watery geography and weather -- so let's invest in infrastructure and amenities that showcase our strength. And that's providing people -- both residents and visitors -- access to water via a world-class linear facility. After all, the Bay is the geographic feature that lends us our identity and ties all of us together here in Tampa Bay.

Before the TrailBridge was closed in 2008, more than 600,000 annual users biked, walked, fished, rollerbladed this 2.6-mile public treasure. The variety of users was stunning, coming from all walks of life and both sides of the Bay.

Our planners know that people in Tampa Bay are thirsting for not only a safe place to bike and walk but also a pleasant venue. Our region has a notorious national reputation for the tragic high number of bicyclist and pedestrian deaths, so why is Hillsborough County considering blowing up a safe haven when we should be increasing our inventory of safe and attractive places to walk and bike?

The business blueprint to create a new chapter in the life of this bridge does not call for Hillsborough County to underwrite the bill to fix the resource. Instead, the game plan is simple -- local residents will create a non-profit and that non-profit will team up with Hillsborough County to form a private-public partnership.

For $13.7 million in donations and grants, we will save the good parts of the current bridge and replace the bad parts that have been damaged by the spray of salt water.

Here's the structural lowdown: The removed low span approaches can be replaced with modern, prefabricated metal structures commonly used for pedestrian bridges and trails. By replacing the low span approaches with new metal structures, the life expectancy is increased to more than 30 years, while the overall weight and yearly maintenance costs are significantly decreased.

Where will the money come from? Revenue to transform the FTB will come from three main sources; donations, grants, and fees.

Where will the money come from to maintain the new life of the bridge that we expect will last at least another 30 years to at least 2047? During the entire project, 55 percent of funds will come from donations and 45 percent will come from revenue after the bridge is opened including vendor rentals, parking fees and special events.

We believe a new and improved TrailBridge carries economic clout: A transformed bridge will be visited by more than 680,000 people a year and will increase direct spending by $14 million per year or more in both counties. That translates into more than $786 million in spending and 35 million visitors during the TrailBridge's extended new life.

As the director of a Tampa Bay alliance of 10 bike shops and the founder of an urban bicycle club in Tampa, the most popular refrain is, "I want to bike but I don't feel safe biking on local roads."

A new and improved TrailBridge helps answer that concern.

The idea of getting the TrailBridge back on line has struck a chord with so many different demographic groups in Tampa Bay and even radio sports talk hosts have taken up the cause.

Regrettably, our local elected leaders took an unimaginative approach to dealing with the closed TrailBridge. Proposed repair costs were across the board and eventually the easy way out was suggested -- blow the thing up.

Tampa Bay is in the fight for its economic life and destroying beloved iconic landmarks is not the strategy needed to compete with Southeast competitors such as Atlanta and Raleigh.

SWFBUD stands squarely behind a business blueprint that offers a realistic vision and feasible economic solution that has been submitted to Hillsborough County commissioners for review.

I know thousands of Tampa Bay residents want to walk, fish, bike and soak up the vistas from a new and improved TrailBridge. So, tell the county commissioners exactly that.

Commissioner Sandra L. Murman — District 1
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, PO Box 1110, District 1
Tampa, FL 33601-1110
Phone: 813-272-5470Fax: 813-272-7046

Commissioner Victor D. Crist — District 2
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners • PO Box 1110, District 2
Tampa, FL 33601-1110
Phone: 813-272-5452Fax: 813-272-7047

Commissioner Lesley "Les" Miller, Jr. — District 3
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners • PO Box 1110, District 3
Tampa, FL 33601-1110
Phone: 813-272-5720Fax: 813-272-7048

Commissioner Al Higginbotham — District 4 - Chairman
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners • PO Box 1110, District 4
Tampa, FL 33601
Phone: 813-272-5740Fax: 813-272-7049

Commissioner Ken Hagan — District 5 (At-Large) - Chaplain
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners • PO Box 1110, District 5
Tampa, FL 33601-1110
Phone: 813-272-5725Fax: 813-272-7052

Commissioner Kevin Beckner — District 6 (At-Large)
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners • PO Box 1110, District 6
Tampa, FL 33601-1110
Phone: 813-272-5730Fax: 813-272-7053

Commissioner Mark Sharpe — District 7 (At-Large) - Vice-Chairman
Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners • PO Box 1110, District 7
Tampa, FL 33601-1110
Phone: 813-272-5735Fax: 813-272-7054

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