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Drivers could start using the new Howard Frankland Bridge as soon as next year

An aeriel view from St. Petersburg, looking toward Tampa over I-275 at the 4th Street exit reconstruction on Dec. 14, 2022.
Florida Department of Transportation
/
Courtesy
An aeriel view from St. Petersburg, looking toward Tampa over I-275 at the 4th Street exit reconstruction on Dec. 14, 2022.

Project leaders are aiming for a completion date by the end of 2024.

Drivers across the greater Tampa Bay region could start using the new Howard Frankland Bridge by 2024, as project leaders are aiming for a completion date by the end of next year.

The construction team just completed putting roughly 3,000 concrete pillars into the ground, according to Greg Deese, the resident overseeing the project for the Florida Department of Transportation.

"Every single foundation element of the bridge has now been installed,” Deese said. “It's just a matter now with constructing what we call the substructure."

The construction crew is now working on horizontal beams on which the bridge deck will be poured.

He says new bridge technology will slow the corrosion of the bridge, meaning it'll have a longer life cycle.

The older bridge is heavily impacted by seawater corrosion because of the type of concrete used to build it.

“We've developed concretes that have much lower permeability, so it takes many, many more years for the salt to reach the steel,” Deese said.

Deese said the new construction also uses “cathodic protection,” which swaps out the steel for another metal that would slow corrosion, and there will be seawall caps made of carbon fiber, which theoretically can’t corrode.

Meanwhile, the bridge will have several transportation improvements, like designated travel time lanes that can carry buses, a multi-use pedestrian and bike path, and even infrastructure to handle a rail system.

"We have built it in such a way that if there ever was a light rail system that was installed, or developed for the region, the bridge can handle rail loading,” Deese said. “So we're excited about the potential for the future and accommodating accommodate that sort of mobility."

Once the New Howard Frankland is open, Deese says traffic into St. Pete will be shifted to the new bridge, while traffic into Tampa will get moved to the current St. Pete bridge.

Then, the old Howard Frankland will be demolished, scheduled for 2025.

Deese says a new bridge is needed because of saltwater corrosion on the old Howard Frankland requiring cost-prohibitive maintenance, and the growth of the region that leads to a need for more extensive and effective lanes.

“I would say for a bridge that was built in the late 1950s, to obtain the service that we did out of [the old Howard Frankland], it’s very, very good,” Deese said.

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