Anyone wondering about the state of Bay Area bridges – in the aftermath of that Minnesota disaster – had to be still wondering if they had only glanced at the front pages of the two daily newspapers recently. The sub-head of the Tampa Tribune : “Bay Area Spans Stand Strong.” The sub-head of the St. Petersburg Times : “Five Area Bridges Flagged As ‘Poor.'”
Both papers prominently quoted Pepe Garcia, the state Department of Transportation’s structures and facilities engineer for west-central Florida. Noted Garcia: “I can categorically tell you the bridges in the Tampa Bay area are safe for the traveling public.”
The discrepancy arose because of the 56 bridges in Florida rated officially “poor,” five are in the Bay Area. But the label of “poor” takes some parsing – and updating.
Two of the five had been repaired in the last six months. None of the other three are in danger of collapse. Decking on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway (over 22nd Street) will be replaced this fall; the Paul Buchman Highway Bridge over the Hillsborough River in Pasco County will be replaced next year; and repairs to the Johns Pass Bridge (erosion around foundation) on S.R. 699 in Pinellas County are already underway.
It’s not easy being a headline writer on deadline.