Hillsborough BOCC Says Blow Up Friendship Bridge, See if Hollywood Will Supply Dynamite

04/07/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Today the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners asked the County’s Public Works Department to find the cheapest way to demolish the Friendship Trail Bridge. Once a popular pedestrian trail, the former auto bridge connects Pinellas and Hillsborough alongside the Gandy Bridge. It has been closed since 2008. Public Works Director Bob Gordon listed the many factors that make the structure obsolete.

Gordon said that even if nobody sets foot on the bridge, it could collapse into Tampa Bay at any moment.

Commissioner Al Higginbotham said that to repair the Friendship Trail Bridge, a move the Pinellas County Commission has already voted down, would not be worth the estimated $42-48 million price tag.

Not everyone agrees that the structure would cost more than $40 million to repair. Clint Lowe is with Fibrwrap Construction’s Atlanta Office. He told the Commission that his firm could do it for nine million, and that they disagrees with the bridge’s estimated service life if repaired. He said that the bridge is too important to demolish.

Officials say repairing the structure would only extend its life by ten years. Public Works Director Bob Gordon said the best option would be to include a new pedestrian trail the next time the Gandy is replaced.

At Higginbotham’s suggestion, the commission also urged the State Department of Transportation to strongly consider constructing a pedestrian trail when it eventually replaces the Gandy Bridge.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said it’s a shame that Florida hasn’t had pedestrians in mind as it has built such structures.

But even if they don’t revamp the old Gandy Bridge, Hillsborough and Pinellas aren’t getting out of it cheaply. Demolishing the more than two and a half mile long bridge would cost an estimated $13 million. Each county has $2 million budgeted for the demolition. Higginbotham and others think some of the rest might come from an unlikely source, filmmakers.

The Pinellas County Commission may approve more money for the demolition project next month.

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