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Costs change plans for bridge

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The mini-Skyway pedestrian bridge probably won’t look like the Skyway after all; construction won’t start before the year’s end. By AARON SHAROCKMAN Published January 10, 2006 CLEARWATER – The planned mini-Sunshine Skyway that would link Island Estates and Clearwater Beach may end up more like a mini-Gandy Bridge instead. Rising construction costs have forced the city to rework the design of the 300-foot-long pedestrian bridge over Mandalay Channel, city officials said Monday. Construction now will not begin before the end of this year. And off the table is the bridge’s most distinctive feature: a cable-stayed design resembling the Sunshine Skyway, city Public Works Administrator Mahshid Arasteh said. Instead, the bridge will most likely be beam-built, the cheapest and simplest form of bridge construction. An engineer’s estimate to build the mini-Skyway came in at $5.2-million – $1.8-million over budget, Arasteh said. “The design originally was within our budget,” Arasteh said. “It’s just with the increased cost of construction that it’s higher than we can do.” Arasteh said she thinks the pedestrian bridge, the westernmost portion of the city’s East-West trail, might still incorporate some elements of the Skyway. The Florida Department of Transportation must approve the new design before construction can begin as part of a local agreement. When it’s built, the 15-foot-wide pedestrian bridge will serve bicyclists and walkers headed to and from Clearwater Beach. More than 5,000 people a week now use two cramped sidewalks on the existing vehicle bridge, the city says. In an emergency, the pedestrian bridge can also be used by police cruisers and small emergency vehicles. It is planned to have a boat clearance of 13 feet, 6 inches. But fishing will not be allowed. The pedestrian bridge is part of an ambitious trail project that when finished will stretch 11 miles – from Del Oro Park on Old Tampa Bay over a new $3.5-million pedestrian bridge above McMullen-Booth Road to the new Clearwater Memorial Causeway and the planned pedestrian bridge to Clearwater Beach. Called the East-West trail, it will ultimately connect with the Pinellas Trail and the planned north-south Progress Energy trail. The construction of the pedestrian bridge is being funded by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant, a program jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. Once construction starts, work is expected to take 14 months.
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