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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Howard Frankland Bridge replacement in works

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Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 12:06 AM
TAMPA -

State transportation planners are studying three types of structures to replace the northbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge by 2020-2025, with costs depending on what kind of transit corridors might be included.

Plans will be presented to the public this summer to gather feedback on the concepts, officials with the Florida Department of Transportation District 7 office in Tampa said Thursday.

“We need to do it right,” Ming Gao, FDOT intermodal systems development manager, said. “The Howard Frankland is the most important bridge in the area. It is not going to be FDOT’s bridge, it will be the Tampa Bay region’s bridge.”

The northbound span as FDOT calls it — traffic actually heads east from Pinellas to Hillsborough County — has exceeded its 50-year design life and it would be more efficient to replace it than maintain it, FDOT has determined. The old span is planned to come down.

The price to replace the Howard Frankland with four lanes of roadway will be about $367 million, FDOT said. That does not include relieving the traffic bottleneck at the Tampa International Airport/Memorial Highway interchange.

If the project added two express lanes in each direction to accommodate bus rapid transit and cars paying tolls to avoid the free, congested lanes, the cost would increase by $339 million to $706 million.

And if the new bridge were built to accommodate a transit exclusive guideway — a corridor for either light rail or bus — the cost would increase by $989 million to $1.36 billion. That price would include additional work in both Hillsborough and Pinellas to accommodate an enhanced transit system and link with new transit terminals in the Pinellas Gateway and Tampa West Shore areas.

State and federal money would be used for the new span if the current bridge is replaced with one the same as today’s, but if other features such as transit corridors are incorporated, FDOT could ask local entities to come to the table, District 7 spokeswoman Kris Carson said.

The decision on the new bridge will be one that affects transportation and economic development in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years.

It might be possible to modify the express lanes option to accommodate rail at a later date, but that cost has not been calculated and would be more expensive than the three primary options.

If the bridge is to be built by the 2020-2025 period, the general public and elected officials must make decisions soon on what kind of transit options, if any, they want and how those would be funded.

Pinellas County residents are scheduled to vote in 2014 on funding a light rail line, which would have implications for connections with Hillsborough County.

There has been discussion of a Hillsborough referendum in the next few years for enhanced transit and possibly rail.

But political backlash from a 2010 referendum failure remains foremost in the minds of many elected officials, although the business community believes improved transportation is a must to draw higher-paying jobs.

In a few weeks, FDOT intends to release a separate study on express lane proposals, also called managed lanes, for Tampa Bay area interstates.

That concept would be similar to express lanes on I-95 in south Florida where high occupancy vehicle lanes were converted to speed vehicles through congested periods.


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