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Could the Howard Frankland be repurposed into a solar farm?

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The Howard Frankland Bridge

The Howard Frankland Bridge is getting a makeover, and a Tampa think tank is petitioning to save its oldest stretches for an eco-friendly reboot.

Right now, barges stationed north of the three-mile Tampa/St. Pete traffic connector are laying the foundation for a new stretch of bridge that will replace the current southbound lanes. 

The new stretch will have eight lanes, including two express options and a bicycle trail, while the current southbound bridge will switch directions to become northbound. The former northbound bridge will be demolished due to age.

But Neil Cosentino, director of Camelot Florida, thinks the money it would take to demolish the aging lanes would be better spent converting them to a solar panel farm.

“It makes a lot of sense to use what you have,” Cosentino told the Catalyst.

The idea, nicknamed the Clean Millenium Bridge project, is one way Cosentino thinks Tampa Bay can lead in making the next millennium cleaner and more efficient than the last. Cosentino says he floated the idea in Washington D.C., but had little success. Now, he doesn’t care who picks up the project; he just wants it done, because it’s an opportunity for Tampa Bay to “have something iconic.”

According to Florida Department of Transportation Spokesperson Kris Carson, the northbound bridge’s scheduled demolition is due to age, and there are currently no talks within the department to preserve it. Carson was not immediately available to speak on the solar farm idea’s viability. 

But FDOT has been gathering public input to include green elements in the new bridge. According to Tampa Bay Next, a wing of the transportation department that sought public input on the reconstruction project, the new Howard Frankland could have the potential to accommodate light rail and autonomous vehicles in the future.

Though Camelot Florida may be the only voices working to save old stretches of the Howard Frankland, it wouldn’t be the first time an older bridge has been repurposed in Tampa Bay.

Cosentino’s proposed solar project mirrors preservation efforts of the Howard Frankland’s southern neighbor, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which had parts of its older sections converted into a state fishing park after a freighter struck and destroyed its center section in 1980. 

The think-tank director also discussed putting rainwater treatment facilities on the old bridge, and even adding solar-fueled businesses underneath to create a beefed-up version of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, where vendors have created a tourism-fueled community on the historic monument. 

Whatever the final outcome, Cosentino says he’s determined to see it through. “I’m gonna try my darndest to make this thing happen,” he said.

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thomas Shaw

    May 22, 2021at4:47 pm

    Great idea as long as the remaining life of the bridge would not be too costly to maintain.

    I’m concerned that there is not going to be enough electricity to power all the cars, buses, trucks and who knows what else!

  2. Avatar

    Bil Geers, P.E.

    August 11, 2021at11:43 am

    This is the same “activist” that pushed the idea of “repurposing” the old Gandy Bridge into a pedestrian / bike trail for the public good. Funds for the demolition were given to the county to maintain the structure. It did not take very long for the County to understand why FDOT replaced the span as it was falling apart under it’s own weight. Any older concretes structure over or near salt water are very costly to maintain (Look at Surfside Collapse). After just a couple of years the County realized the big mistake they made after a couple people killed themselves roller blading on the steep portion of the bridge plus subsequent inspections showed the lower level bridge required tens of millions of dollars to make the structure “safe” for any use. Ultimately the bridge was demolished and millions of dollars wasted in not demolishing it when FDOT replaced it. Lesson learned! Demolish the old Howard Franklin bridge and turn it into an artificial reef in Tampa bay or out in the Gulf is the best way going forward. Neil – solar panels require periodic maintenance and the structure must be safe. Gandy Friendship Trail was a disaster and this would be as well. There is plenty of wide open spaces in rural Central /South Florida that are better suited for solar farms – not on top of an old falling apart bridge over salt water. Teco Big Bend farm and others are viable – not this proposal!

  3. Avatar

    Alan Engman

    August 11, 2021at3:19 pm

    Salt crystals in the sea air can affect solar panels through accumulation. Over time, a thin film of salt can cover a solar panel which, left unchecked, will gradually block light out from the panel. This has a negative effect on panel.

    Aug 2, 2012

    How Does Salt and Sea Air Affect Solar Panels? – Solar Panel …https://www.solar-panel-cleaners.com › News

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