Tierra Verde Finally Slated for New Bridge

By Betsy Judge

Photos courtesy of FDOT

It took 14 years, but the money is finally avail- able to build a new Structure E, the bridge that connects Tierra Verde to the mainland.

Beautiful is how Kevin Lee with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) described how it would look to members of the Tierra Verde Business Partnership at a recent meeting.The $52 million project was funded in 2016; the design and build team will be selected this year and construction is projected to begin in 2018 with anticipated completion in 2022. The project includes rebuilding the seawall on the east side of the roadway across from Century 21, building the bridge itself, and resurfacing Pinellas Bayway South (State Road 679) to the intersec- tion with State Road 682 which goes over the bridge (Structure C) to St. Pete Beach.

“It is basically going to mimic Structure C. It will be almost identical,” said Lee repeatedly in response to concerns about the height of the bridge including a rumor that it would be the steepest bridge in the state. “It will be identical in slope to Structure C, so if you don’t have issues driving Structure C, you shouldn’t have any issues with this bridge.” Clearance for boats under the bridge will be the same all well.

The bridge will be a single lane in each direction with a 12 foot wide trail on the east side and a five foot wide sidewalk on the west, both of which will continue to State Road 682. The bridge also has 10 feet of shoulder in each direc- tion to allow emergency vehicles to pass vehicu- lar traffic if necessary, but it will not alleviate con- cerns about packs of bikers taking up the road; they will still ride there.

This cross section shows the sidewalk on the west side of the roadway and the trail on the east side. Both will go all the way to the intersection by the entrance to the Isla Plaza. Cyclists in groups will still use the roads.

 The department has held meetings with the community to determine the aesthetic qualities of the bridge including decorative elements of the support structure, lighting and the walls. Structure E will have the same design features as Structure C with the exception of the lights which have to be located on the outside of the lanes vs. in the middle.

The community was involved in selecting the design elements of the bridge including the support structure, the lights and what to include on the walls. With the exception of the lights, it will have the same design features as Structure C.

In addition to concerns about the height, the inclusion of a roundabout at the intersection of the Bayway and Madonna Boulevard was a issue.

“The roundabout looks like the one in Clearwater and in high traffic like in February, the congestion makes it hard to get home. Can you guarantee it won’t get congested?” asked a participant.

Another member chimed in, “I know statisti- cally you can move more traffic through a round- about then you can an intersection. I’ve seen the studies. But you don’t live here on Sunday.”

There will be flash beacons giving drivers a heads-up about the roundabout while they are on the bridge. There are also two curves coming down from the bridge to slow traffic so cars should be traveling between 15 and 20 mph when they enter the circle.

The roundabout concept was a big discussion item. FDOT representative Kevin Lee assured the audience that it is the best alternative for the intersection at the south end of the bridge and that design features have been included to help slow traffic before entering the circle.

Comparisons with the traffic situation at the Clearwater roundabout were somewhat dimin- ished with further discussion about the elements of the design that would require traffic to slow and the lack of anything at the center of the circle which allows drivers to have a better sense of where the traffic is in the roundabout.

In response to concerns about emergency vehicles making it around the circle. Lee noted the project was developed using design vehicles that represent everything from passenger cars to firetrucks and fuel tankers that have to maneuver to get in and out of the gas stations.

Lee says he has three priorities for the project: the safety of the drivers, the safety of the pedes- trians and the safety of others, like cyclists, using the road.

The two entrances from the Bayway into the plaza at the base of the bridge will be closed; access to it will be from Madonna only, and the existing draw bridge will remain in place and usable during construction.

The community was involved in selecting the design elements of the bridge including the support structure, the lights and what to include on the walls. With the exception of the lights, it will have the same design features as Structure C.

FDOT is not involved in the current construction that according to one indi viduals is hurting business already. “We won’t be here until another year from now, and we will have a public work- shop letting you know we are coming. The department is very good when it comes to doing what we are going to do,” adds Lee.

A copy of the presentation is available here.