The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a biggie! This highway bridge on I-275 near Tampa Bay crosses 29,040 feet which comes out to about 5.5 miles. Held up by cables, this bridge from the distance shines bright gold in the sun and looks a bit like a golden sailboat floating above the bay. It is easy to see why it has been named one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Supposedly, the bridge is considered to be the longest cable stayed concrete bridge in the world and the Travel Channel rated is as one of the top 10 in the world.
The complete name is the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, named after a former Florida Governor. ,It costs around $1.50 to cross it and the pittance is well worth the wonder of riding so high up. My brother and sister in law Wayne and Pat shared this Florida view with us on a recent trip and luckily I wasn’t driving and got to enjoy the expanse of the glittering cables and the water. On one side of the road before the bridge people were parasailing so combine the bright colors of the sails and the bridge and there was something to look at every minute of the crossing.
Wayne told us, “This bridge was the site though of a disaster.”
After the original bridge was replaced in the 70’s to make it bigger. The a steel cantilever bridge was just fine until disaster struck May 9, 1980, when a freighter, the MV Summit Venture collided with support column. The unhappy incident occurred during a thunderstorm and the result was that 35 people died when several cars and a Greyhound bus plummeted into the bay. This was the worst bridge disaster in Florida’s history. There is a memorial plaque recounting this incident but that part of the stop was closed the day we were there.
Construction of the current bridge began in 1982, and twenty-one steel cables extend from each direction of the towers, supporting the weight of the concrete slabs. The completed bridge was dedicated on February 7, 1987.
For some reason sadly this has been a place where several people have decided to not only enjoy life, but to end theirs. “Several people have committed suicide on this bridge,” Pat added.
It seems unlikely when looking at the amazing beauty of this highway in the sky, but the facts belie the serenity of the bridge. According to a statistic on Only in Your State, I found they said, “Since opening in 1987, the new bridge has seen over 200 people end their lives jumping into the Gulf waters. 51 people perished falling from the first Sunshine Skyway bridge during its three decades of operation, as well.”
Wayne also mentioned the wind can be a challenge at that at times the bridge is closed due to the high winds.
One of the best parts of the bridge is that there is a state park at either end and the supports of the old bridge were later turned into a fishing piers that has become a very popular fishingplace. According to the Florida State Parks, “When the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge was built over Tampa Bay, connecting St. Petersburg with Sarasota, the old bridge was turned into the world’s longest fishing pier. Anglers love being able to park their cars or campers within a few feet of their favorite fishing spot. The bridge is lighted at night, so anglers can see to rig a line, bait the hook, and get a good look at their catch. The light also attracts many species of fish after sundown. Common catches include snook, tarpon, grouper, black sea bass, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, sheepshead, red snapper, pompano, and many more. Snacks, drinks, bait, and fishing supplies are available.”
If in the area, it is worth your time to go out of your way to see this architectural marvel!