We have been to Florida many times and enjoyed the differences between different areas of the state. I have to say though, that I fell in love with the Tampa / St. Petersburg area on our very first trip in May of 1999. Exploring Salvador Dali was probably one of the highlights of our time in this area. However, I also love bridges and had to go see the Sunshine Skyway Bridge since we were so close to it. I don’t know why I am so fascinated with bridges, but I just love them. This bridge was spectacular.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans Tampa Bay and connects the city of St. Petersburg to Sarasota and runs about 4.1 miles. Today it is part of Florida’s interstate system as I-275 and US 19. It is constructed of steel and concrete. Steel cables clad in 84 9-inch steel tubes (42 per pylon) along the centerline of the bridge support the main span. This new bridge cost $244 million to build and was opened to traffic on April 20, 1987. It replaced an older bridge constructed in 1954, which was partly destroyed in a collision in 1980.
As it is such an interesting bridge, it is not a surprise that Sunshine Skyway Bridge has provided the setting for several films over the years, both credited and uncredited, e.g., Loren Cass and The Punisher (2004). Because of its height above the emerald-green Gulf waters, length of continuous travel, location in a warm-weather state, and modern architectural design, it is a popular spot for filming automobile commercials. lol
In Ben Bova’s 2005 novel Powersat, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, along with the Brooklyn Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge were destroyed in a coordinated terrorist attack against the United States. In 2012, the United States Postal Service featured the bridge on a US $5.15 “Priority Mail” postage stamp. Bill DeYoung’s 2013 non-fiction book, Skyway: The True Story of Tampa Bay’s Signature Bridge and the Man Who Brought it Down is a detailed chronicle of the 1980 Summit Venture tragedy and its aftermath.
When I first saw it I was amazed and surprised. I knew it was long, but I guess it’s different reading it in a book and actually seeing it first-hand. I was a little bit afraid that it was so far to the other end (especially since I had read about some of the past disasters with older bridges), but excitement won over, and couldn’t wait to cross it. Of course, we had to stop and pay the toll at the toll plaza before we crossed but it wasn’t too bad and totally worth the adventure. It was quite amazing.
Sadly you can’t stop anywhere to take pictures, look around, etc. I was a little disappointed as I was hoping to get some cool shots at the top. Oh well, I guess that would be a nightmare if they did have a place. Everyone would want to do it and never leave, lol We found a few places to stop on the other end, and got some pictures, but it wasn’t the same 🙁 I eventually got over it, lol
While doing research for this post I found out that in 2005, an act of the Florida Legislature officially named the Sky Bridge to the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, after the Governor of Florida and then U.S. Senator who presided over its design and most of its construction. According to sources, he was inspired to suggest the current design by a visit to France, where he saw a similar cable-stayed bridge, the Brotonne Bridge. The original bridge was dedicated to state engineer William E. Dean, as noted on a plaque displayed at the rest area at the south end of the bridge. I wished I would have seen this plaque, but I will make sure to see it the next time we are in the area. This bridge, it is definitely something to see and do while in Florida. I am so glad we didn’t miss it.
Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge Information
Sunshine Skyway Ln S, St. Petersburg, FL 33711
$1.50 for passenger cars or $1.07 with SunPass. Cash Only
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