Friendship Trail Bridge – Worth Saving!




The Friendship Trail Bridge can be saved. It can be made better and stronger. It can be transformed to a world-class linear park; a destination that opens up our bay to millions of visitors.

Between 1999, when the Friendship Trail Bridge (FTB) was opened for pedestrian use, and 2008, when the FTB was closed, more than 600,000 visitors per year visited the FTB. On April 4th, the County was on the verge of approving a contract to tear down the FTB. As a result of widespread community support and recognition from the County Commission that the FTB was a unique community resource, we were tasked with developing a business plan for the FTB in 30-days.

After a thorough analysis of the engineering reports, usage studies, analysis of nationwide comparable projects, and consulting with engineers, architects and lawyers who have donated their time to this project, we are certain that the Friendship Trail Bridge can be transformed. For $13.7 million in additional funds we believe a new bridge can be built and it will last to 2047 and beyond.

We have developed a comprehensive plan to save the bridge that addresses public safety, restoration, management, revenue generation, economic impact, and the fundraising required to accomplish these goals.

The FTB is a unique and irreplaceable community asset.

Our solution includes partial demolition of damaged sections, light repair of sound portions of the bridge and replacement of the damaged decking sections of the bridge with new, more durable construction. We want to save what can be saved and replace what cannot.

Using modern construction practices to replace the damaged decking sections, we can reopen a safer and more functional Friendship Trail Bridge.

The 2.6 mile long Friendship Trail Bridge is currently composed of three different bridge span types: the low span approaches, the high span approaches and the navigational channel spans. All of the post-closure reports and reviews focused on the bridge decking, the “superstructure”, of the low span approaches. These reports focused on the low-span approaches because they are closest to the water and, therefore, incur more of the effects from seawater and waves.

Our design solution removes all low span approaches and keeps the remainder of the bridge intact with minor repairs.

The removed low span approaches can then be replaced with modern, prefabricated metal structures commonly used for pedestrian bridges and trails. By replacing the low span approaches with new metal structures, the life expectancy is increased to over 30 years, while the overall weight and yearly maintenance costs are significantly decreased.

The FTB is a unique and irreplaceable community asset. The structural components that are safe and still functional have a replacement value of over $30 million.

The use of prefabricated metal bridge spans saves costs and allows for a greatly enhanced bridge that will provide new amenities along the trail. Using standard, prefabricated parts, the new bridge spans can accommodate fishing platforms, vendor areas, picnic areas and boat slips. By strategically scattering these amenity spans throughout the 2.6 mile trail bridge, the trail can become more active and inviting with several activity centers along the path.

We propose to form a public-private partnership with Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties to run the bridge for the benefit of everyone living in and visiting Tampa Bay.

Our long-term vision of the Friendship Trail Bridge includes the creation of a separate, not-for- profit corporation (“Non-Profit”), a legal entity that would work in partnership with local governmental bodies and be charged to:

• Manage the day to day operations and maintenance of the Bridge
• Raise private and public funds, through donations and grants, to assist the County in meeting the immediate and long-term operations and maintenance of the Bridge
• Guide the vision of the Bridge, including design, capital improvements, and services

The public-private partnership will take advantage of the county’s existing experience and resources while leveraging the ability to raise private donations to contribute to the operation of the FTB.Our proposal would have the Non-profit run by a board consisting of representatives of the County, as well as other participating local governments and stakeholders from the community.

The bridge itself would continue to be owned and governed by the Interlocal agreement between Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties. We would then request that a lease be signed between those governments and the new Non-Profit.

We have outlined a 5 phase schedule with benchmarks from proving feasibility to fully transforming the bridge into a linear park.

This schedule would begin after approval from both Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and would lead to the bridge being open to the public in 5 years.

Phase 1: June 16, 2012 to February 16, 2013: Prove the bridge is feasible and raise funds to do so
Phase 2: 2013 to 2017: Raise the capital to transform the bridge
Phase 3: 2016 to 2017: Repair and construction
Phase 4: 2017: Opening of the bridge
Phase 5: 2017 to 2047 and beyond: Operating and expansion of the bridge

We expect that the transformed bridge will be visited by over 680,000 people and will increase direct spending by $14 million per year or more in both counties.

Revenue to transform the FTB will come from three main sources; donations, grants, and fees. No one single source of revenue can be relied upon to fund the construction, operation or maintenance of the Friendship Trail Bridge.

Most of the money for construction will come from donations raised directly by the non- profit – around $13 million.

The second largest source would be $6.5 million from government and foundation grants, which includes $3 million we hope to raise from the county using savings from the demolition of the bridge. Once the bridge is constructed there will be opportunities to obtain revenue from vendors, events and parking fees.

After a 5 year fundraising program we anticipate this project will raise over $20 million from donations and grants to transform the bridge.

During the complete 35 year life of the project; 55% of funds will come from donations and 45% will come from revenue after the bridge is opened including vendor rentals, parking fees and special events.

The transformation of the Friendship Trail Bridge into a lively linear park will give Tampa Bay’s residents access to their bay in a unique setting that no other city or region could match. It will serve as an iconic destination, drawing visitors from all over the globe and encouraging them to spend more of their vacation time in Tampa Bay.

Over the lifetime of the bridge, we expect over 35 million visitors spending more than $786 million, while encouraging a healthier 21st century lifestyle for Tampa Bay citizens.



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One Response to Friendship Trail Bridge – Worth Saving!

  1. Ross-Barry Finlayson says:

    Steve. Great plan. I hope all goes well for the future of this bridge.Will share this on my social media sites.

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