Skyway Bridge History
After many years of Ferry service, construction began on the original Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 1950 and it was completed in 1954. The 4-mile-long bridge carried two lanes of US 19 traffic over the Tampa Bay, between St. Petersburg and Bradenton. It cost $22 million, and had a maximum height clearance of 150 feet and a shipping channel clearance of 864 feet, which was adequate for ships of that era. The name for the bridge was decided from a "name the bridge contest" that had about twenty thousand entries. The winner was Virginia Seymour who said "it just came to me, out of the blue". The only thing that gave many people the jitters was driving over the steel (see-through) grid roadway while crossing the shipping channel and the humming sound of a vehicle's tires. Construction on the "twin" southbound span began in 1967 and was finished in 1971. The new span cost $25 million and carried two lanes of southbound traffic, while the original now carried only northbound traffic. After the Skyway disaster there was a choice that had to be made: Repair or replace? Some wanted the bridge restored while others wanted a whole new bridge. After all, two way traffic was once again running on the 1954 span which led to occasional head-on collisions. Work began on replacing the original Skyway Bridge(s) in 1984 with an entirely new design and it was opened to traffic on April 20, 1987. On November 18, 2005 the bridge was officially named the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge since Graham played an important role in the new bridge becoming a reality. Of course, the new bridge is bigger, stronger, safer and more majestic.
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