The giant cranes stand lined up like towering sentinels, guarding one of the main north-access routes between Tampa and St. Petersburg.
And the presence of these construction behemoths signals the ongoing effort to make commuting life inside the automobile more pleasant, beneficial, and most importantly, more expedient.
A new span along the old Howard Frankland Bridge is being built to pave the way to easier commutes for future generations of cross-Tampa Bay drivers.
One of three bridges connecting Hillsborough and Pinellas counties (the Gandy Bridge and Courtney Campbell Causeway the others), the Howard Frankland -- named for the Tampa businessman who proposed it -- is the most traveled. According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), an average of about 179,000 vehicles per day currently take the bridge across the bay.
Kristen Carson, public information director for FDOT District 7, Tampa Bay
, says the new bridge project “is progressing on schedule and on budget.”
As of Jan. 6, she reports approximately 40 percent of all pilings for the bridge foundations have been driven; 85 of the 549 bridge footings have been constructed; 55 of the 549 bridge columns have been completed; 18 of the 226 bridge pier caps are done; and beam placement will start in late spring 2022, followed by deck construction in early summer 2022.
Construction cost is estimated to be $865.3 million. Completion is expected by late 2025.
“The causeway widening along the Pinellas and Hillsborough sides of the bridge is progressing,” she stated by email. “Approximately 80 percent of the sheet piling for the new seawalls, for the widened causeways, have been driven and the placement of the new embankment, behind the new seawalls is progressing.”
At the peak of Howard Frankland Bridge construction, Carson says there will be more than 250 workers onsite, including subcontractors, most of the workers are local to the Tampa Bay Area or the Central Florida area.
The new bridge is being built north of the current southbound bridge and will consist of eight lanes: four general purpose lanes, two northbound express lanes, two southbound express lanes, and a bicycle-pedestrian path. The existing southbound bridge will change to become northbound I-275 and the existing northbound I-275 bridge will be demolished.
The bike-pedestrian path will connect Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, a request from both local planning agencies -- Hillsborough MPO and Forward Pinellas -- and Carson says that reflects the surrounding communities’ desire to have bicycle-pedestrian accessibility. The path will have four overlooks and “aesthetic features that will be located at each end of the bridge and on the overlooks.”
Troy Zepeda, President and CEO of Computer Solutions Tampa, a computer diagnostics company, says he makes client trips from his Tampa office to St. Petersburg several times a month. Founded more than 10 years ago, his corporate headquarters are in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.
“It will be great once the bridge is completed, we can get to our customers in a quicker time to provide service. The (new) bridge construction, once done, will make business commuting easier and I look forward to that,” he says.