We knew something was up when we crossed the Gandy yesterday and saw some weird-looking machinery on the old bridge.
Turns out, Hillsborough County expects it'll start taking down the Friendship Trailbridge as early as next week, a county spokeswoman said in a media release.
The $9.35 million project will be carried out by American Bridge Company and Ayres Associates, and will consist of dismantling the bridge in a way that's not expected to impact traffic on the Gandy. The light fixtures and handrails are already gone.
The trailbridge was used for auto traffic until 1995, when the new Gandy's westbound span opened to traffic. Four years later, the old bridge opened up to pedestrians and at the time was the only (safe) way to cross the bay on foot or by bicycle. In 2008, after engineers deemed the structure unsound, officials closed it forever.
The bridge remained closed despite passionate efforts by activist Neil Cosentino and architect Ken Cowart to reopen it, as we wrote about in a 2012 CL cover story.
That summer Ken Cowart was able to convince the Hillsborough County Commission to look into possible ways of saving it (and got a Best of the Bay nod for his efforts), but ultimately Pinellas and Hillsborough counties chose destruction, and in April Hillsborough approved its share of the money to demolish it.
So it's probably a sad day for Cosentino, Cowart and others who loved the Friendship Trailbridge.
Perhaps they can be consoled, just a tad, by the brand new pedestrian-only bridge that crosses over the bay via State Rd. 60 adjacent the Courtney Campbell Causeway.