When you drive to work during rush hour in any city, you can expect to get stuck in some traffic. You have probably figured out your best way to work; maybe you leave a little early to avoid the rush or you take an alternate route to avoid the busiest roads.
But what if the only option you have to get to work is a bridge that is infamous for closing?
Interstate 275 runs through Tampa Bay via the Sunshine Skyway bridge. It is the only roadway that directly connects Pinellas and Manatee counties. So far in 2016, the bridge has closed seven times. When 10News WTSP posted a story about the Skyway on its Facebook page, viewers had a lot to say. Many of them, for instance were fired up with how often it closes.
"Stop closing the bridge so much," wrote Jason Lemske.
"Quit closing it when it's windy!!!! Have the state troopers make the tractor-trailers turn around, but let us cross it at 25 mph," wrote Darly Haworth.
"There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the abundance of closures," noted Kathy Levin-Turner.
The Skyway closes for weather events like heavy fog and high winds. Because it's so high above the bay, it's not safe for vehicles to cross when winds are sustained at 40 mph or when fog drastically reduces visibility. The Florida Highway Patrol monitors weather conditions constantly and decides when to close the bridge.
Every viewer who commented on our Facebook post expressed frustration with the frequent closures. However, our problems with the Skyway are not as big as they feel. Out of the seven closures this year, two were for more than 24 hours during severe weather.
We did the math and the bridge has been closed for roughly 60 hours this year. There have been about 6,500 hours in the year as of the air date of this story, Sept. 27. So, the Skyway has been closed less than 1% of our time. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?
Of course, it is still a nuisance when the bridge does close. Drivers have to detour onto Interstate 75 through Hillsborough County, which can add an extra hour to the drive time. So, we took your suggestions to the Florida Department of Transportation to see if there will ever be another option to cross the Bay.
One of the most common solutions you brought up on Facebook is lowering the bridge, so it doesn't close so much for weather.
"Can we lower this bridge and use Port Manatee instead for the cruise ships?" asked Marinella Kirk.
We brought this question to Kristen Carson, FDOT spokesperson.
"When you talk about lowering a bridge, rebuilding a bridge, you're talking about millions if not billions of dollars. It is not something we're going to consider right now," said Carson.
You also proposed a tunnel that would go underneath Tampa Bay, a thought that's been considered before.
"We had that suggestion years ago and again that comes down to millions if not billions of dollars for a tunnel," said Carson.
Two of your solutions are actually possible.
"What IS needed is a ferryboat service between St. Pete and Manatee," wrote Robin Tice.
"I have not heard of one in the talks. Not to say that wouldn't happen in five to 10 years. Who knows?" said Carson.
In the next 10 or 20 years, there could actually be mass transit across the bay. FDOT is funding a two-year premium transit study right now for Tampa Bay. The department is working to determine where mass transit could be beneficial.
Carson also explained that once the Tampa Bay Express Project is complete, it will be easier for drivers to detour when the Skyway Bridge closes. Interstates in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties will have express lanes to allow drivers to bypass heavy traffic.
You can join in on the Sunshine Skyway bridge conversation on Road Warrior Hilary Zalla's Facebook page. Let us know what you think about the future of travel between Pinellas and Manatee counties.
There is a new maintenance project on the Sunshine Skyway. Expect single lane closures from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. FDOT does not expect congestion with this work. Crews will be sealing the deck, doing minor concrete repairs, and milling and resurfacing the Dick Misener Bridge.