Friendship Trail Bridge group proposes linear park over water

4:33 PM, May 9, 2012   |    comments
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Friendship Trail Bridge rendering.

Tampa, Florida -- The Friendship Trail Bridge has been plagued with structural problems. After the bridge closed to traffic it remained open for pedestrians for 9 years but became too unstable to remain open and closed in 2008. The bridge may be getting a second chance.

Hillsborough County Commissioners have given the FTB group more time to make their presentation to commissioners moving the group's presentation date from May 16 to June 6.

"We want to take part of the bridge that is still good to build a whole new bridge that will last 30 years or more," says Kevin Thurman, volunteer with the Friendship Trail Bridge.

The group has an $18 million plan for commissioners to repair the 2.6-mile long bridge. The proposal includes raising $13 million through donations over the next 4 years.

Photo Gallery: FTB group proposes linear park

"I believe when you have a program that excites people gets them interested you can get the funds necessary," says Thurman.

Volunteers say the $5 million balance would come from matching grants and demolition funds. County leaders estimate it would cost taxpayers more than $4 million to demolish the entire bridge.

Volunteers with the Friendship Trail Bridge suggest taking that money and turning the bridge into a linear park so everyone can enjoy it and, at the same time, saving taxpayers the money they've already invested.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe says the group's plan is feasible.

"Citizens came to us, we've seen their presentation. It's incredibly impressive and it's indicative of what we will see more of public private-partnerships to do great things for Florida."  

FTB volunteers estimate the payoff for taxpayers includes up to $14 million a year for both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties with 680,000 visitors a year.

As far as bridge maintenance, volunteers expect more than half of the money will come from donations and the rest from revenue collected from vendors, rentals, parking fees and special events. If approved, the bridge would open in 2017.

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