The Howard Frankland Bridge Expansion – No Small Task

Most people who live in the Tampa Bay area have driven over the Howard Frankland Bridge at least once. For many, the bridge is a vital part of the commute if they live in Tampa and work in St. Petersburg or vice versa. According to Florida Traffic Online, the Howard Frankland Bridge carries 3.5 times more traffic than the Gandy Bridge to the south and 2.5 times more traffic than the Courtney Campbell Causeway to the north. Freight trucks made up about 6% of its traffic in 2020; around 3,900 trucks in each direction every day. The steady increase in usage prompted construction of a new, larger span of the bridge which began in April 2020 at an estimated cost of $865 million. Construction is expected to be finished by late 2025.

A little bit of history

Tampa Businessman Howard Frankland proposed the original four-lane bridge (currently used as the northbound span) which was completed in April 1960 at a cost of $16 million. Modifications were made to improve safety, but by 1978 plans were in the works for a larger replacement. The decision to build a parallel bridge instead was reached in 1987 and construction began the following year. In 1990, the $54 million southbound section was opened and accommodated both directions of traffic while updates were made to the northbound span. In 1992, both spans opened and have remained in use to this day.

A labor-intensive process

Up to 250 workers at a time will be present during construction. A small ferry carries them to locations where the bridge pilings are installed. Large holes are drilled into the hard sedimentary rock (called chert), some of them extending 200 feet below the surface of the water. The rock’s toughness is more evident on the Hillsborough County side of the bay. Cranes use large hammers to drive pilings into the holes. Drilling takes place at night while most other construction happens during daylight hours. Over the next few months, beams will be placed followed by concrete poured for the bridge deck. Cement mixers will operate from the current bridge to reach the first half of the new bridge.

"Everything looks easier when you're just watching from afar," said Greg Deese, a Florida DOT engineer. "The logistics that it takes just to transport people to the work zone, to get materials, and also try to do this while not impacting traffic — it's a very drawn out, very complex process that requires constant coordination."

Beams will be placed starting late Spring 2022, followed by deck construction early Summer 2022.

The numbers:

  • Project length is 6.4 miles
  • 3,006 piles measure 40 miles end to end
  • 1,727 beams measure 46 miles end to end
  • More than 172,000 cubic yards of concrete
  • More than 36,674,636 pounds of rebar

To date:

  • Approximately 41% of all pilings for the bridge foundations have been driven
  • Bridge footings - 95 of 549 have been constructed
  • Bridge columns - 80 of 549 have been completed
  • Bridge pier caps - 26 of 226 have been completed

Information courtesy of Tampa Bay Business Journal, click here for the complete story. Additional details found at WFLA’s website here. Information about the bridge’s history can be read here. Image above courtesy of Wikipedia.

February 17, 2022

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