They invited designers and contractors to learn about construction plans and opportunities, as well as community and environmental impacts.
Starting in December 2019, FDOT will construct an entirely new bridge to connect Tampa and St. Petersburg. The project should be completed in 2024, then the original bridge, now 58 years old, will be torn down.
Marshall Hampton, FDOT project manager, said the projected cost is $800 million.
The new bridge will have four general purpose lanes as well as two toll express lanes going each way. The extra lanes should help with emergency response situations and hurricane evacuation plans, as well as accommodating future transit needs.
Hampton said the construction will not have a big effect on traffic, because they’re building to the north and can do it in phases.
“It won’t be your typical construction project,” he said.
Because of increased requests from the community for more bicycle and pedestrian facilities, the design also includes a 12-foot wide trail going along the bridge.
Jill Cappadoro from Quest Corporation of America said FDOT will implement the OnBoard4Jobs Construction Careers program. This will provide unemployed adults with roadway construction jobs on the project.
Since it's funded by the Department of Transportation, there will be no cost to contractors who hire workers through the program.
“We have a deep bench of skilled workers,” Cappadoro said.
Ginger Creighton, Environmental Permits Administrator, said FDOT has already made multiple environmental commitments for this project in order to protect wildlife like manatees and sea turtles. These include vessel restrictions, quiet zones along the bay and nighttime work rules for construction on the water.
One of the things still to be decided is a plan for disposal of waste and debris from the original bridge. This will be up to the contractor running the construction.
After the industry forum and other one-on-one meetings, contractors will bid on the project to decide which firm will undertake the construction.
“We’re excited to get this process started,” Hampton said. “We’re part of the community, we’re helping with congestion and we’re wanting to provide safe facilities.”