Taking a tour around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in sunny Tampa Bay, Florida, with Instagram Influencer Megan Bair (@megan_bair)
The Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge often called the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, or simply the Sunshine Skyway, is a set of two beam bridges with a central cable-stayed bridge spanning Lower Tampa Bay. It connects St. Petersburg, Florida, to Terra Ceia. The Sunshine Skyway bridge you see today was completed in 1987, but it is the second structure to share that name. The first one was built in 1954 and served Tampa Bay until 1980, when it collapsed due to a collision with a cargo ship.
The current Sunshine Skyway was designed by the Figg & Muller Engineering Group and constructed by the American Bridge Company. At 21,860 feet (4 miles) long, this Gateway to Florida is considered one of the longest Cable-stayed bridges in North America used for vehicular traffic. The four-lane bridge connects Interstate 275 and U.S. Route 19 and runs through Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, and Manatee County. There is a $1.50 toll for two-axle vehicles traveling in either direction that can be paid with cash or the state's SunPass system.
The first Sunshine Skyway was a two-lane bridge with a main truss bridge in the middle. It was constructed west of the current structure and completed in 1954. A second span was added to it in 1971.
Over four months, the original Skyway was the site of two major maritime disasters. The second disaster resulted in the bridge's partial destruction and eventual replacement. On the night of January 28, 1980, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collided with the tanker Capricorn just west of the bridge, resulting in the sinking of the cutter with 23 crew members. This peacetime incident is considered one of history's deadliest maritime tragedies.
On the morning of May 9, 1980, during a severe storm, the MV Summit Venture collided with one of the supporting piers near the center of the bridge. The southbound roadway collapsed, and 35 people died when their vehicles (including a Greyhound bus) fell into Tampa Bay below. The damaged portion of the old bridge was torn down a few years after the accident, while the surviving section was turned into a long fishing pier. The modern Sunshine Skyway we see today is equipped with safety features to protect it against ship collisions - Given that it spans one of the busiest shipping routes in America.
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