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Bridge gets high-wire paint job

Over the years, the bright yellow cables of the Sunshine Skyway have grown splotchy. The work will affect traffic.

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published May 29, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - If you were on the North Skyway Fishing Pier Monday afternoon and you weren't looking at the bare-backed and bikini-clad folks with fishing poles ... or the diving pelicans ... or the marble-eyed egrets ... or the speed boats leaving the long white wakes ... or the blue-green water that made you want to jump in jeans and all ... well, maybe then you might've looked over at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and noticed the stay cables and their old, patchy paint job.

The Gulf Coast icon that links Pinellas and Manatee counties is getting a long-awaited touch up.

The left lanes will be closed on both sides of the bridge from 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. today through Saturday, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The $4-million project started in February and is scheduled to be done in the fall. Up to this point, workers mostly have been cleaning and prepping the 42 steel cables up to this point.

Now comes the paint.

The work won't be much to see at first, said Kris Carson, a DOT spokeswoman, until the workers start moving up from the base of the cables and start getting up high.

"You're going to have gawkers out there, " Carson said.

The Skyway is more than 4 miles long and 193 feet high. The Times in the past has called it "a model of grace" and "a glorious, sweeping reminder of what is great about living here."

This project was supposed to start last fall but got pushed back.

It will be the first full repainting of the Skyway since it was built 20 years ago and will involve four coats of paint - first gray primer, then white primer, then the same, familiar shade of bright "taxicab" yellow, then a clear protective coat.

Workers also will "rehabilitate" the lighting system.

On Monday afternoon, the work site on the bridge was quiet on account of Memorial Day, but scaffolding was set up, and tarps and nets, and the orange traffic barrels were waiting in the breakdown lanes on both the northbound and southbound sides.

Down at the end of the pier, German tourists Torsten and Caroline Reh, both 28, had their picture taken with the bridge as the backdrop. The splotchy paint didn't seem to bother them.

"There's a hill in the bridge, " he said.

"It's like a mountain, " she said.

"I've never seen such a bridge before."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com

Fast Facts: 

Another detour

Motorists are detouring around work on a CSX railroad crossing that has closed part of McMullen-Booth Road. Traffic can't get from Drew Street to State Road 580. The rail section being replaced is more than 220 feet long, so officials say they had to close all lanes for about three weeks.

Painting the Skyway

Lane closures: The left lanes will be closed from 7:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. today through Saturday.

The work: The 42 cables will be repainted for the first time since the Skyway was built 20 years ago. Workers will apply four coats: gray primer, then white primer, then the familiar bright yellow, then a clear protective coat. Workers will start at the bottom.