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Columbus Drive Bridge Closed Until May

The historic Hillsborough River span is getting $8.6 million in upgrades.

The Columbus Drive Bridge, a historic landmark and vital link between West Tampa and Riverside Heights for over eight decades, needs a major rehab.

And so the Hillsborough County Public Works department will keep the normally busy bridge closed until about early May, according to department spokesperson Steve Valdez.

According to the public works website, major repairs will include the reconditioning and replacement of mechanical bridge elements, replacement of the electrical bridge control system, replacement of the bridge roadway deck grating, structural concrete and steel repairs, painting of the bridge structure, and tender house reconstruction.

According to the county, the project has been split in two phases. Phase one, which started in May 2011, involved work on the south side of the bridge and the intermittent closing of one lane. The second phase started Feb. 21 and closed the bridge entirely to allow workers to open the drawbridge and perform replacement work on its components.

The bridge has spanned the Hillsborough River since 1927, and was originally called the Michigan Avenue Bridge. It was designated a historic landmark in 2006 by the City of Tampa, along with five other bridges, as detailed in this Tampa Preservation Inc. article.

A Tampa Bay Times article from 2006 details the efforts of Riverside Heights resident Sharon Keene to get historic designation for the bridge, and her early memories of its role in neighborhood life.

The bride is the oldest of only two bobtail swing bridges left in Florida. The other, according to Bridgehunter.com, is the 1930 Tamiami Canal Bridge in Miami.

When the $8.6 million project is complete, the bridge will be restored to its original functionality and historic appearance, according to the county.

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