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Blasts begin demolition of Clearwater bridge

The $69.3-million Clearwater Memorial Causeway opened last month to replace the 1960s bridge.

Published September 20, 2005

[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
Part of the old Memorial Causeway bridge was blown up early Tuesday morning.
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CLEARWATER - A piece of Clearwater history came down Tuesday when construction workers completed the first of three blasts to destroy the old drawbridge.

Traffic was stopped for about half an hour on the nearby Clearwater Memorial Causeway at 7:40 a.m. while workers demolished the two counterweights that kept the leaves of the drawbridge balanced when they opened.

The two simultaneous explosions about 7:55 a.m. lasted less than five seconds and sent chunks of debris flying. The combined 700-ton concrete and steel counterweights, which were above water, landed in the channel beneath the drawbridge.

Workers will haul the rubble to a reef 12 miles offshore after the demolition is finished.

The $69.3-million, 74-feet-tall Clearwater Memorial Causeway, which replaced the 1960s drawbridge as the main bridge to Clearwater Beach, opened Aug. 18 after a series of construction delays.

The controlled blast required a 1,000-foot safety zone, but did not endanger the new bridge, said Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation. Carson would not give details on the amount of explosives used, citing security concerns.

City officials plan to convert part of the west end of the drawbridge into a 300-foot pedestrian promenade. Crews expect to start the $900,000 project next fall.

Two more blasts, including one underwater, will demolish some of the piers and are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 18, Carson said.

[Last modified September 20, 2005, 19:13:02]

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