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Open at last

A closer look at Clearwater's new bridge and its history of problems.

By Times Staff
Published August 18, 2005


Clearwater's new bridge to the beach opens to traffic today, a sleek capstone in the massive redevelopment of the city's prized waterfront. The half-mile bridge brings:

-- An easier drive for beachgoers on a stretch that is notoriously congested.

-- A better path for pedestrians and bikers with a more illustrious entryway.

-- A 70-foot-high span that eliminates the need for a drawbridge.

None of it came easy. Construction problems and engineering errors dogged work on the $69.3-million undertaking almost from the start.

PROBLEM 1

December 2002: An 80-foot section of the roadway sinks and twists one foot.

HOW IT HAPPENED: A construction accident while crews were pouring concrete

REPAIR: Demolished using explosives

IS IT FIXED? Engineers found no structural damage to the roadway, but decided it should be replaced regardless

PROBLEM 2

February 2004: Extensive cracks discovered in the bridge's four main columns.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Unfinished roadway shifted during construction, bending the columns below.

REPAIR: Crews built two new columns around each cracked one, then removed the damaged column.

IS IT FIXED? The new columns provide additional support, engineers say.

PROBLEM 3

February 2004: A 104-foot section of roadways sinks 7 inches overnight

HOW IT HAPPENED : Temporary scaffolding holding up the roadway buckled.

REPAIR: Reposition the roadway.

IS IT FIXED? A state independent review says bridge meets building code.

PROBLEM 4

June 2004: Cracks are found in a 40-foot section of the bridge's south span.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Likely damaged as a result of a February 2004 accident.

REPAIR: Remove the span using high-pressure water-blasting equipment and jackhammers.

IS IT FIXED? New roadway was built.