I could not believe my eyes when I read the headline in the Bradenton Herald this morning: “Raising Sunshine Skyway Bridge Could Accommodate Jumbo Cruise Ships.”
Is this some type of April Fools joke?
Apparently not. The newspaper reports that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is studying whether to raise the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in order to accommodate the newer cruise ships which can’t fit under the bridge.
The FDOT is spending over $150,000 of taxpayer money to determine whether it is feasible to raise the bridge. The FDOT is also studying whether new cruise ship terminals should be constructed west of the bridge, either in St. Petersbug or Bradenton.
A FDOT spokesperson told the Bradenton Herald: “Given the economic impact from the cruise business on the region, the FDOT wants to look into possibilities for mitigating possible future negative impacts on the loss of this cruise business in the region, including whether constructing a new terminal outside of the Skyway Bridge, or perhaps even raising the bridge, should be considered.”
Of course, the FDOT also has an obligation to Florida taxpayers not to waste their money in considering silly, hair-brain ideas like this.
The Skyway bridge was re-designed after a cargo carrier slammed into it in 1980, toppling a span and killing 35 motorists. It was raised when it was re-built and can still accommodate most cruise ships today. It’s a beautiful design, beautifully landscaped, and in outstanding condition.
Raising the bridge again would probably take a couple of years. It would result in stopping all traffic on the bridge or detouring all traffic to one span. This would be a major hassle for commuters crossing from Bradenton to St. Petesburg or from St. Pete to Bradenton. Why should the residents of South Pinellas or North Manatee County be inconvenienced to accommodate a cruise terminal in Hillsborough county?
Plus, the project would likely cost over $500,000,000 and as much as $1,000,000,000 (billion). Spending that much money in hope of attracting more passengers from a gigantic ship is a foolhardy adventure especially considering that cities like Mobile, Houston and Norfolk spent tens of millions building new cruise terminals for the cruise lines which left them high and dry.
The newspaper says that bridges “have been raised to accommodate ships in the past, but it is a costly and time-consuming process.” The newspaper cites the Bayonne Bridge in New York which has been in the slow process of being raised for the past several years at a cost of over $740,000,000.
You can see the Skyway bridge in photos I took last year.
I say leave it the hell alone.
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Photo Credit: Jim Walker / Original story credit: Sara Kennedy, Bradenton Herald reporter, follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.