1. The bridge spans the Lower Tampa Bay
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a toll bridge that spans Lower Tampa Bay and connects the city of St. Petersburg in Florida with the community of Terra Ceia. Almost 60,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day.
It’s a cable-stayed bridge with two massive towers and carries both Interstate 275 and U.S. Route 19. The American Bridge Company built it with a total cost of about $244 million USD and it was completed in the year 1987.
2. It’s the second bridge on this location
The original bridge on the location was opened for traffic on September 6, 1954, and as named the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as well.
It originally only had 2 lanes and by the year 1969, a second bridge running parallel to the original bridge was constructed. This way, the old bridge had an equal number of lanes as the current bridge.
3. The original bridge collapsed in 1980
The reason that the old bridge was replaced with the new bridge was because of a massive accident that happened on May 9, 1980. A huge freighter with the name of MV Summit Venture crashed into the span going south and destroyed a pier.
The result was that 1,200 feet (370 m) of the bridge dropped into the water below and multiple vehicles, including six cars, a truck, and an intercity bus, fell into the water. The result was horrific as 35 people lost their lives that day.
The reason for the crash was a sudden microburst and winds exceeding 70 miles per hour (110 km/h), making it a very tragic accident with nobody to blame.
4. The bridge has a couple of different names as well
Apart from being referred to as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the bridge is often simply called the “Skyway.”
Its official name since 2005 is the “Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge,” named for Bob Graham, the 38th governor of Florida from 1979 to 1987 and a Senator from Florida from 1987 to 2005.
5. The old bridge was demolished in the early 1990s
Until the new bridge was opened, the bridge going north was still used as a two-lane road. The southbound span was used as a fishing pier until the new bridge was completed on April 20, 1987.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that the old bridge was partially demolished by the Hardaway Company. All parts of the bridge were carefully dismantled, including the elements located underwater.
6. The remains of the old bridge were turned into a State Park
The remaining parts of the demolished bridge were blasted, including the steel truss and the concrete piers. This completed the demolition of both old bridges in the year 1993.
The approaches to the old bridges were kept in place, though, and turned into a State Park referred to as the “Skyway Fishing Pier State Park.” This park consists of both piers on the north and south side of Tampa Bay and is extensively used by fishermen.
Obviously, this is an extremely picturesque location for photographers as well!
7. The current bridge is over 4 miles long
One of the most amazing facts about the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is that it has a total length of 4.14 miles (6.7 kilometers) and a width of 94 feet (29 meters), making it one of the longest bridges in the United States.
The longest span is 1,200 feet (366 meters) long and the bridge’s deck is located at a height of 180.5 feet (55 meters) above the water.
The towers easily qualify as skyscrapers as they reach a total height of 430 feet (131 meters). It also took nearly 5 years for the bridge to completed, starting in June of 1982 and completed in April of 1987.
8. The bridge features crisis hotline phones to prevent jumping
One of the saddest facts about the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is that it’s not just a popular bridge for cars to cross, but also for people who want to commit suicide. It’s estimated that at least 310 people have committed suicide by jumping off the bridge, and at least 43 people have miraculously survived the jump.
Because of the constant danger of people using the bridge for this purpose, 6 crisis hotline phones have been installed at various points on the bridge. Dozens of people have called this hotline and everybody who did has survived!
9. A replacement for the phones will be much more effective
One might wonder why they didn’t think of this before, but in 2020, official plans have been announced that the “Skyway Vertical Net” will be installed along the bridge. This will make it impossible for anybody to commit suicide by jumping from the bridge as they would simply be jumping into this net.
This net will be placed alongside the outer barriers of the bridge and extend about 8 feet (2.4 meters) from them with a total length of 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers). That’s one massive net, don’t you think?
10. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge has become the ultimate symbol of Florida
Even though walking on the bridge is prohibited as it’s part of a controlled-access highway, the bridge is a very important icon for Florida. Its imposing towers have become the ultimate symbol of the state and have been featured in numerous forms of media, including television, film, and novels.
Some of its most notable features are in the movies “Loren Cass” 2006) and “The Punisher” (2004).
In 2017, a lighting system was installed worth $15.6 million USD which further emphasizes the bridge’s role as a symbol of the state of Florida, and what an amazing symbol it is, especially at night!
This concludes our top 10 list of facts about the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, one of the most fascinating bridges in the world that spans the Lower Tampa Bay in western Florida!