TIERRA VERDE, Fla. (WFLA) — Underwater pier pieces from the old Bayway Bridge were blasted Tuesday as part of the ongoing bridge replacement project in Pinellas County.
“I thought it was awesome! It was great, especially seeing them build the new bridge and then blowing the other one up, that was awesome!” said Cindy Robbins, who watched the underwater explosion.
The Florida Department of Transportation and the contractor for the project scheduled the underwater bascule pier blasting for 1:30. The scheduled detonation had to be pushed back until 1:39 because crews spotted a manatee in the area.
“There’s several teams of observers. There’s land-based observers that are on the bridge, there’s boat-based observers and there’s an aerial survey component. Basically we are just doing our part to try to protect the wildlife,” said Jake Gorzelany, a biological scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “We don’t direct the animals or try to coax them in or out, or around the area. They have to go out on their own volition. If they’re just in the area transitioning through we basically have to wait.”
The blast is another step in the Bayway Bridge replacement project. The $56.8 million project started in 2018 to replace the existing two-lane bascule bridge with a two-lane, high-level, fixed bridge.
“The bridge was replaced due to its age, and also the fact that it was a drawbridge. So for boats to go underneath it, traffic would have to stop, and now we have a beautiful high-level two-lane fixed bridge,” said Kris Carson, FDOT Spokesperson.
The project started in late 2018 and is expected to be completed by fall of this year.