Earlier this month the Sunshine Skyway Bridge celebrated it's 30th birthday. It was dedicated Feb 7 1987 and opened for traffic in April of that year.
This iconic bridge is now 30 years old and is the second version of the Skyway, but what was there before this one?
Prior to the construction of the original Skyway bridge there was a boat service called the Bee Line Ferry which began service in 1926 and lasted until 1954 when the first bridge was completed. The ferry shortened the trip across the Bay to well under an hour. It could carry passengers and cars back and forth from Point Pinellas to Piney Point in Manatee County and made 8 trips a day. The original Sunshine Skyway bridge spanning the mouth of Tampa Bay was built linking St Pete (and Pinellas County) to Manatee County in 1954.
During the Skyway's history there have been several notable accidents involving the bridge. In 1980, the US Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collided with the inbound tanker Capricorn and as a result 23 coast guard crew members lost their lives when the ship capsized. There is a memorial park dedicated to the crew of the Blackthorn located on the northern side of the Skyway Bridge.
The same year as the Blackthorn tragedy another calamity occurred directly involving the old Skyway bridge. During a major thunderstorm, the freighter Summit Venture hit one of the support pylons and caused the collapse of over 1,200 ft of the southbound span. Vehicles tumbled over the edge and 35 people died in this horrific accident. Amazingly, one man survived the fall in his pickup truck when it landed on the ship's deck below. Some facts about the Sunshine Skyway Bridge:
The current Sunshine Skyway bridge was made to replace the damaged 1954 structure, part of which today is used as fishing piers just to the west of today's structure. The official name is the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge (former Governor), as it was his design idea that eventually was approved after having considered different plans including a tunnel.
Today the bridge stands as a symbol of Tampa Bay and St Pete. Who knows how long it will last or what the next one will look like...as cruise ships and boats are increasingly built bigger and bigger, the clearance of the bridge will become more of an issue.
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