Delays hinder Columbus Drive bridge reopening - FOX 13 News

Delays hinder Columbus Drive bridge reopening

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Back in February, the Columbus Drive bridge in Tampa was closed for what the county called "much needed repairs."

The bridge, which opened in 1926, was supposed to reopen in late May, but a funny thing happened on the way to that target date.

"In mid-May, we started sand-blasting the steel structure of the swing gate on the bride and the sand-blasting equipment was going right through the steel," said Steve Valdez of Hillsborough County.

The county was forced to replace those steel beams.  They also had to replace a part in the motor of the swing bridge and do extra unexpected roadwork at the base of the bridge.

That has caused the 90-day project to take longer.

"We are saying the very worst case scenario, July 24," Valdez said.

That's bad news for local business owners like Ken Brackins of popular bar Ricks on the River.

"We're down at least 40 percent on our lunch business since they closed the bridge," said Brackins.

Those who drive in the area are also feeling the pain.

"The traffic is bumper-to-bumper right now," said Robert L. Brown of Tampa.

Brown says he tries to avoid rush hour traffic at all costs on the detour routes. But a delay was supposed to come with a silver lining.

According to the county, for every day the contractor was late they were supposed to be penalized $10,000.

By now, the county would have saved close to $300,000 in taxpayer money.

But they say that stipulation in the contract no longer applies.

"This can't be blamed on our contractor, because these were conditions that weren't scoped and part of his work in the original project," Valdez said.

And that new work? It comes at a cost.

"It's gonna cost about $150,000 more, it is still within the budget of the project because the bids came in lower than was anticipated. So it is still within the budget of the project," Valdez said.

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