The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is about to release its study into whether to raise the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in order to accommodate the newer huge cruise ships which can’t fit under the bridge.
A Tampa news station reports on the issue in a story entitled "Mega Cruise Ships Present Mega Problems for Tampa." The station says that "officials could do nothing, replace the bridge, build a drawbridge on one side or build a new cruise terminal near the Hillsborough/Pinellas line to avoid it all together."
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 to avoid the the bridge.
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 certainly 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. Petersburg 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.
Last year, the Bradenton Herald reported 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.
I have discussed this issue before. One reader of our Cruise Law News Facebook page said:
"How about building ships that are appropriately sized to fit ports (and destinations) rather than the push for ever bigger ships, demanding bigger, new and different infrastructure (costs pushed off onto port communities to extent possible). Wouldn’t it be grand if all the best ports simply united and said no. This is the maximum we are built for."
You can see the Skyway bridge in a photo (above) I took last year from my father-in-law’s dock.
I say leave the bridge the hell alone.
July 3 2014 Update: The Bradenton Herald says that the cost of replacing the bridge would be $2,000,000,000 (billion). Given the cruise industry’s track record over the years, there is no way that cruise lines like Carnival or Royal Caribbean would pay a dime of it.