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Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014
Opinion

Saving the FriendshipTrail

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 10:53 PM

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

This perfectly describes Hillsborough County's handling of the FriendshipTrail Bridge.

When it was open, the bridge was a unique community asset used by more than 600,000 residents per year. Even though the bridge is now closed, I still see people who have hopped the barriers and are using it. If you don't have a boat, the bridge is one of the few ways you can access the waters of Tampa Bay.

After the bridge was closed because of safety concerns in 2008, the county failed to perform a comprehensive study of the bridge's condition and failed to develop any plan to save this asset. Having failed to fully study the bridge's condition for four years, the county decided the only option available was demolition.

That is when I, and many other concerned citizens, got involved.

Our first argument to the county was that a comprehensive study was needed to determine the bridge's condition before tearing it down. Once we understood the condition, a plan could be developed. If the bridge could be saved, we developed a bold vision for the project.

The county seemed to recognize that it lacked the information necessary to make a decision when it voted to stop the planned demolition. Since then, however, the county has rushed through a series of poorly-thought-out proposals. First, we had the parks referendum, which appeared without warning and died a quick death. Now, the county says it wants to issue a request for proposals hoping that some private company will step forward to do the county's work.

The county is rushing from a poorly-thought-out plan to demolish the bridge to a poorly-thought-out plan to save it. Both options are likely to fail.

Without accurate information about the bridge's condition, it is impossible to plan a future for it. The county should have performed a comprehensive study four years ago. For some reason, it is still refusing to perform a comprehensive study.

If the county won't perform the study, it should give the community time to raise money to conduct the study on its own. Once we understand the bridge's condition, then can we plan a solution.

Brian Willis

Tampa

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