The Tampa Bay Times published a story on the Friendship TrailBridge on its Web site on Sunday, May 20, that was one-sided and so riddled with errors that I am not going to post the story here. But in the story's comments section, one of the FTB report authors -- Tampa architect Ken Cowart -- addressed all the issues and I am posting Ken's comments here. The Times did not even contact Ken or fellow report author Kevin Thurmon.
1. Our plan can be downloaded and viewed by anyone at friendshiptrailbridge.com, it is a comprehensive 70 page plan an 200 page appendix with all the facts, history and data.
2. In our plan we are not requesting any additional monies from either county, only the funds already allocated for demolition.
3. The bridge was not closed for vehicular use in 1995 due to structural issues, it was shut down due to the new span constructed.
4. In 2008 when structural issues were discovered they were limited to the girders on the low span approaches. This is why our plan involves the immediate demolition of these portions.
5. Contrary to the article, our plan includes monies for the repair of the pilings, we simply disagree with staff that every single piling must be repaired on day one, especially the pilings that are in good condition. We will repair every piling during the first 10 years of operation. Which is more than most bridges in Pinellas.
6. Engineers did NOT look at the bridge again in 2010. They simply performed a peer review of the previous report. The price tag of $48 million was flat out rejected at the time because it suggested an inappropraite repair option. Previous repairs were estimated between $7 and $15 million.
7. Our plan includes a series of benchmarks in order to not put the tax-payer at risk. We plan to raise the needed $13.7 million dollars from the private sector over 5 years.
After countless interviews and discussions with several people in the media, it is puzzling that not one of the "backers" were contacted prior to this article being published. Saving the Friendship Trail Bridge is saving a tremendous asset to the community. Over 600,000 users a year when it was opened! That's a lot! It is one thing that connects Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and allows citizens to appreciate Tampa Bay.