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Bridge's new architecture in the spotlight

Consultants will present various options at a meeting Jan. 15. City commissioners hope to replace the 63-year-old structure by 2005.

By KATHY SAUNDERS
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 2, 2002


TREASURE ISLAND -- Want to see what the new causeway bridge could look like? The public is invited to a meeting Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. to discuss the architectural options for the new bridge.

Consultants EC Driver & Associates are expected to have some designs and exhibits about the possibilities for the new structure. The meeting will take place at City Hall, 120 108th Ave., before the regularly scheduled commission workshop.

"One thing we'd like to make clear to people is that this meeting is about the architecture of the bridge, not the height," said City Manager Chuck Coward.

The meeting is the beginning of several weeks of discussions about whether a new bridge will retain the architectural features of the existing structure or take on a more modern look.

"This would be presuming that we are replacing it," said Coward, allowing that commissioners have not yet made an official decision to replace rather than restore the current structure.

But the consultants said in November that it wouldn't make sense to try to restore the 63-year-old bridge.

"What they really said is that there is no economically viable alternative to replacement," said City Public Works Director Don Hambidge. "If the bridge deck and beams are in such bad shape that you have to replace them, then to put them on the old pilings makes no sense and no one's going to give us any money to do that."

Commissioners need to decide on a design for the new structure this spring because the two smaller causeway bridges are expected to be replaced in the fall. The city obtained grant money to replace the east and west approach bridges because of their rapid deterioration. The east bridge is in the city of St. Petersburg near Park Street. The west bridge is at the entrance to downtown near the St. James Condominiums.

The city has been spending thousands of dollars every month to keep the bridges safe until they are replaced. Beginning next week, the decks on the approach bridges and the drawbridge will undergo another $19,725 of repairs, requiring some lane closures. The bascule bridge may need to be closed to vehicular traffic for some overnight repairs.

City commissioners hope to replace the structure by 2005 with a $50-million to $60-million drawbridge. The city will be seeking federal and state grants to help pay for the bridge. Commissioners also raised the price of annual toll bridge passes from $20 to $30 in December to help raise the money for the new structure.

The architectural design of the bridge is the second of three key elements that need to be decided. The first was alignment. Consultants reported in November that a new bridge could be built in the existing alignment and that two lanes can remain open throughout the construction.

"They said we won't have to wiggle it either way and we won't have to close it," said Coward.

Once the design of the bridge is complete, city officials will begin talking about how high to build the new bridge.

Coast Guard officials have told the city that the new bridge will have to be at least 21 feet off the mean lower water line at the bridge fenders. It currently is 9 feet off the center and about 7 feet off the water at the fenders, said Hambidge.

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