Novel economic development idea: tear down Sunshine Skyway Bridge

July 5, 2014 

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GRANT JEFFERIES/gjefferies@bradenton.com A view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge from the Anna Maria City Pier.

GRANT JEFFERIES — gjefferies@bradenton.com Buy Photo

Does the old saw "if you build it, they will come" apply when chasing rainbows and hoping to find a chest of gold?

That was our initial take on the very idea of tearing down the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and building a taller one to allow gigantic cruise ships entry into Tampa Bay.

That idea would have more appeal if the state's also talking about improving infrastructure to allow access for the new generation of huge container ships -- to Port Manatee.

The new Tampa Bay Cruise Port Pre-Feasibility Study focuses on just passenger ships, this a preliminary report commissioned by the state.

The mind-numbing cost of ripping out the Skyway and building a new one: an estimated $2 billion.

Or, the study outlines, the state could raise the deck of the bridge, at the veritable bargain price of $1.5 billion. A third option, replacing a bridge section, would cost the same.

Another one is building a new port west of the Skyway on a manmade island either in Pinellas or Manatee counties, and then ferrying passengers onto the mainland.

Yes, the cruise industry is a vital component of both the state and regional economy, with ships currently docking in Tampa. At one time, Port Manatee hosted cruise liners. South Florida hogs the business today.

If revenue forecasts supercede Tampa Bay infrastructure improvement costs, then by all means let's chase that rainbow. The idea, though seemingly farfetched, is intriguing -- especially if Skyway changes allow the massive cargo ships into Port Manatee.

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