Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Structurally Deficient Howard Frankland Bridge?

Here's an interesting story from Bay News 9 I found recently: The Howard Frankland Bridge being labeled structurally deficient.

What the article is talking about is today's northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge, which was built and opened to traffic in 1960. Until 1991, this was the bridge that carried four lanes of Interstate 275 traffic dating back to its Interstate 4 heydays when that interstate highway went west to St. Petersburg terminating at Ulmerton Road and Martin Luther King Street North (today's Interstate 275 Exit 31). The traffic loads on this bridge increased significantly to the point where the Florida DOT decided to widen the Howard Frankland including its approaches from four to eight lanes in each direction.

Six years earlier, the original northbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened in 1954. Bridge building methods of the era were a lot different in that these bridges were built so low to the water line. Both bridges stood the test of time for so many years.

Even with rehabilitation efforts done on the northbound span of the Howard Frankland after the new 1991 southbound span opened, unfortunately the bridge is showing its age. By comparison, the 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span was torn down in 1991 and the north and south sections were preserved as fishing piers; just recently the old northbound span used as a fishing pier had to be closed due to serious structural deficiency.

And we can't forget the westbound span of the Gandy Bridge which was built four years earlier before the Howard Frankland in 1956. Once the new westbound span of the Gandy Bridge was built in 1997 the 1956 westbound Gandy Bridge was scheduled for demolition but was saved and reused as a pedestrian trail called the Friendship Trail. Like the 1954 Sunshine Skyway, the 1956 Gandy Bridge had to be closed to pedestrian traffic due to serious structural deficiency and from what I understand the Friendship Trail is scheduled for demolition sometime in the not too distant future.

Now with two 1950's era bridges closed, the 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span and the 1956 Gandy westbound span, there is a possibility despite the story on Bay News 9 that the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge could be seriously structurally deficient to warrant closure. Being a part of Interstate 275 carrying commuters between St. Petersburg and Tampa and vice versa, a closure of the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge northbound span can have potential ramifications as far as traffic is concerned.

Presently there is a wide gap between the 1960 and 1991 Howard Frankland spans. Perhaps now is a good time to seriously consider the construction of a commuter rail line connecting St. Petersburg with Tampa using the center median of Interstate 275. I feel that this commuter rail line - complemented with the existing CSX track through St. Petersburg, Clearwater and northern Pinellas County as well as Tampa - could somehow be a potential lifesaver if in the event of a serious structural deficiency of the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge requiring closure.

Of course the 1991 Howard Frankland Bridge would have to be reconfigured to four lanes, but the Gandy Bridge and the Courtney Campell Causeway would have to pick up the increased traffic flow. However, the potential for gridlock would be compounded by the temporary loss of a Tampa Bay crossing; just recently I was headed home on the westbound span of the Gandy Bridge when I noticed heavy gridlock on the eastbound span coming into Tampa.

In other words, if the 1960 Howard Frankland Bridge were to be declared seriously structurally deficient to require closure, the traffic impacts in the Tampa Bay region would be severe. This would be compounded by the lack of rail based mass transit in the Tampa Bay region, as buses would be subjected to the same delays. The recent Florida DOT report should serve as a wake up call for our area public officials to reconsider rail based mass transit in the Tampa Bay area. This is not the high speed rail from Tampa to Orlando that was thrown away on purpose courtesy of Florida's 45th governor, but something that would really benefit the Tampa Bay region as a whole.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reminder regarding new Interstate 275 Florida Blog Address

Just a quick reminder about our blog address:

To get to the Interstate 275 Florida Blog, simply type this URL into your browser's address bar: That's all there is to it! That URL will bring you right here. Or, you can click on the link to this blog right from the blog introduction page at

Just another way I make things easier here at After all, I can't tame the morning or evening commute out there on Interstate 275 as far as the Tampa Bay metropolitan area is concerned - but I can make things a lot easier for you here at the website.

VERY IMPORTANT: If you have been using the domain address to get to the Interstate 275 Florida blog, you will want to update your bookmark if you got the Interstate 275 Florida Blog bookmarked in your favorites as the domain will no longer exist.

So remember, will bring you here!