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Roundup: DeSantis fast tracks Howard Frankland project, VSPC launches new campaign

Margie Manning

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The Howard Frankland Bridge

Today’s roundup includes news about the Howard Frankland Bridge, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, PSTA and Zero Suicide Partners of Pinellas.

One thing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has noticed as he travels the state during the Covid-19 pandemic is little traffic on the roads.

So, while announcing a 30-day statewide stay at home order that takes effect Friday morning, he said wants to take advantage of the situation and accelerate $2.1 billion in transportation projects.

One of the projects he’s green-lighting is an $864 million construction project on the Howard Frankland Bridge, building a new southbound/westbound interstate bridge over Old Tampa Bay between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

DeSantis said he is accelerating the Howard Frankland project by four weeks.

While traffic is down, crews can work for a longer time in daylight hours and close down more lanes, he said, adding “You can really start to make progress on some of these key projects.”

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater has put its existing paid media campaign on hold and launched a new campaign, dubbed “Brighter Days Ahead.” It comes amid beach and hotel shutdowns and most attractions temporarily closing their doors.

“Through this messaging, we aim to share our commitment to safe travel while remaining optimistic about the future and passionate about all that St. Pete/Clearwater has to offer,” the agency said in an email to industry partners.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has finished installing bus driver safety shields.

A total of 202 buses are now equipped with protective barriers.

A deadly attack on a HART bus driver in Tampa last year prompted the agency to install the shields, but they take on on new meaning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am thankful for the hard work so many people did in order to complete this critical investment to keep both our drivers and riders in our care safe,” Brad Miller, PSTA CEO, said in a press release. “During these difficult times, these shields also provide another layer of security for our operators, which we are also grateful for.”

The PSTA Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve $1.2 million in funding for the project. The barriers are paid for by PSTA’s capital reserve fund. PSTA was one of the first agencies in the Tampa Bay region to install safety barriers.

An alliance of Pinellas County organizations is focusing on mental wellness during the coronavirus pandemic.

Zero Suicide Partners of Pinellas includes nearly two dozen mental health and substance use treatment organizations, advocacy groups and government entities with the goal of reducing suicide in the community.

The organization offered several tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Take care of your body
  • Connect with others
  • Take breaks
  • Stay informed
  • Avoid too much exposure to news and social media
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