03/11/12

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Howard Frankland
Sunshine Skyway

 

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Introduction

Original Howard Frankland Bridge Dedication Program

Perspective of the Howard Frankland Bridge - Northbound Interstate 275

Perspective of the Howard Frankland Bridge - Southbound Interstate 275

 

Introduction

Dedicated on 15 January 1960, the Howard Frankland Bridge is the third crossing over Old Tampa Bay.  Four years before in 1956, the second span of the Gandy Bridge opened carrying westbound traffic.  In fact, the Gandy Bridge was the first crossing over Old Tampa Bay constructed way back in 1924.  A few years after the Gandy Bridge opened sometime in 1927 the Ben T. Davis Causeway (later renamed the Courtney Campbell Causeway) was the second crossing over Old Tampa Bay connecting Tampa with Clearwater.  The Howard Frankland Bridge served as the basis of the extension of what used to be initially Interstate 4.

The Howard Frankland Bridge was constructed utilizing a low level trestle with a high clearance at the midway point of the bridge (which is commonly known as the hump) plus dredged causeways on both the St. Petersburg and Tampa sides.  Interchanges at Kennedy Boulevard (Exit 39A) on the Tampa side and at 4th Street North (Exit 32) and Ulmerton Road/Martin Luther King Street North (Exit 31) on the St. Petersburg side were constructed, as well as bridges on the interstate mainline and 4th Street North crossing Big Island Gap.

When the Howard Frankland Bridge first opened it had only a low center concrete divider; this created a dangerous situation with oncoming traffic plus a narrow span.  The head-on collisions had gotten so numerous that a raised concrete wall divider (called a Jersey Barrier) had to be installed.  Over the years the Howard Frankland Bridge had earned some distinctive nicknames such as the Howard Frankenstein and the Car Strangled Banner due to the volume of accidents that have occurred and the resulting traffic backups on the four-lane span.

In the 1970’s a stalled vehicle warning system was installed that consisted of a series of push buttons along the length of the center section; when a button was pressed motorists were notified by the flashing sign “stalled vehicle” just before entering the center section.  This was later replaced by a more sophisticated accident warning system utilizing overhead lane signals on the bridge and variable message signs at the approaches to the bridge.  These variable message signs would have their normal messages but in the event of an accident or other incident that closes the bridge for any reason the messages would be changed by remote radio signal link to advise motorists to follow specially designated signs (these signs were an interstate shield with the legend N or S) that would take one across the Gandy Bridge to avoid the resulting congestion as a result of a temporary closure.

With the increased traffic plus the high rate of accidents and the bridge being four lanes with no emergency lane, a second span of the Howard Frankland Bridge was justified.  Construction on the second span of the Howard Frankland Bridge began around 1989 and the second span was opened to traffic in 1991. The continued need for the variable message warning system was obviated now that the bridge is eight lanes, four lanes for northbound and four lanes for southbound.

Initially Interstate 4 was carried when the Howard Frankland Bridge opened but with the extension of Interstate 75 southward to St. Petersburg, it now carries Interstate 275 traffic.  Today the Howard Frankland Bridge remains as an important icon of the Tampa Bay area.

Original Howard Frankland Bridge Dedication Program

Here is a transcribed copy in PDF format of the dedication program for the original Howard Frankland Bridge on 15 January 1960.  Many thanks to Kris Carson at the Florida DOT for faxing the dedication program and another special thanks to Justin Cozart, bayciti.net webmaster (website defunct as of 2008), for pointing out the Howard Frankland Bridge original opening date!

Perspective of the Howard Frankland Bridge - Northbound Interstate 275

Mileage sign for Tampa International Airport, Tampa and Lakeland

Tampa International Airport is 7 miles ahead, while Downtown Tampa is 11 miles away. Also notice the distance to Lakeland 45 miles away via Interstate 4; the distance to Lakeland is a remnant of the Howard Frankland Bridge's heydays as a part of Interstate 4.

The Howard Frankland Bridge is fast approaching

On the left is a sign informing motorists that if in the event of a breakdown to use only the right shoulder. The left shoulder has almost no room but you are not riding on the bridge rail like the original 4-lane bridge.

Variable message signage just before the Howard Frankland

One of the many variable message signs placed on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area. It informs motorists of travel distances and times to major interchanges as well as traffic incidents and the occasional Amber and Silver Alerts.

The beginning of the Howard Frankland Bridge

The eastbound span of the Howard Frankland is the original 1960 bridge which was renovated in 1991 just after the new westbound span opened. Notice the 65 mph speed limit signs flanking either side of the roadway. Believe me, the newly renovated span is much better than the original counterpart.

Third of the way across

On the right is one of the many new mile markers on Interstate 275.

Just before the hump

Here we see another set of 65 mph speed limit signs flanking the bridge to remind motorists of the speed limit. Don't worry, the Florida Highway Patrol is watching you!

Entrance to the hump

Here the Howard Frankland Bridge transitions from a low level trestle to a high level 45 foot vertical clearance section intended for tall masted boats to pass through. After all, you can't put a drawbridge on the interstate.

At the top of the hump

We are now 45 feet above Tampa Bay here. The center of the hump marks the border between Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties as eastbound traffic is crossing into Hillsborough County.

Descending from the hump

You can start seeing the skyline of Downtown Tampa in the distance from here.

Back on the level section again

We are now about 2/3 of the way across the Howard Frankland Bridge on the Tampa side. Again notice the 65 mph speed limit signs flanking either side of the bridge.

Just a reminder in case you break down

Be sure to use the right shoulder of the eastbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge if in the event your vehicle breaks down. That's not only a good idea, it's also the law. We're almost onto Hillsborough County soil here.

Exiting the Howard Frankland Bridge

We have made it onto the Tampa side of the Howard Frankland Bridge! But remember to drop your speed down to 55 mph due to the reduced speed ahead signs flanking the highway - from time to time speed enforcement blitzes are conducted not only by the Florida Highway Patrol but by the Tampa Police Department as well!

Perspective of the Howard Frankland Bridge - Southbound Interstate 275

Mileage to St. Petersburg and Largo

This is the first sign you see coming from Tampa as we approach the Howard Frankland Bridge. Downtown St. Petersburg is 14 miles ahead on Interstate 275 while Largo is 16 miles away by way of Ulmerton Road (FL 688).

Westbound on the Howard Frankland Bridge

This is just right after you get onto the bridge on the 1991 span. Notice how wider the span is, not to mention emergency lanes on either side unlike the eastbound counterpart. Also notice the 65 mph speed limit signs flanking either side of the bridge, which will be the speed limit on southbound Interstate 275 until after the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and US 19 South (Exit 5).

Ascending the hump

This is the beginning of the hump on the new 1991 westbound span of the Howard Frankland Bridge. Notice the the slope of the hump is gradual and not as steep compared to the older hump on the original 1960 eastbound span.

At the middle of the hump

We are now 45 feet above Tampa Bay here. The border between Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties runs through the middle of the boat channel as seen by the sign. This is looking as we cross into Pinellas County from Hillsborough County.

Down from the hump

We are now on the St. Petersburg side of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

Just about the end of the bridge

Notice the 65 mph speed limit signs flanking either side of the bridge as we get ready to touch down on Pinellas County soil.

One of the new variable message signs on the St. Petersburg side

One of the many variable message signs that greet you when you come off the Howard Frankland Bridge on the St. Petersburg side.  Like the northbound counterpart, it informs motorists of travel distances and times to major interchanges as well as traffic incidents and the occasional Amber and Silver Alerts.

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This site was last updated 12/31/11