Headed to the Florida Railroad Museum from St. Petersburg Soon?

If you’re headed to the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish from St. Petersburg via the Sunshine Skyway Bridge anytime soon, you will want to read this.  An upcoming ramp closure at the southern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75 (Exit 228) is going to affect how you are going to get to the Florida Railroad Museum, especially for the upcoming events including the museum’s most popular event in December, the North Pole Express.

Beginning Sunday, 29 July 2018 and continuing for ten (10) months, the overpass flyover bridge connecting southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 will be closed for concrete bridge deck replacement.  Along with the work, according to the Florida DOT, will be roadway resurfacing, guardrail installation and signage replacement.  I have driven over this flyover ramp a lot especially when headed over to the Florida Railroad Museum’s Parrish station and I agree, that flyover bridge deck is in need of replacement.

The southern terminus of Interstate 275 at Interstate 75, Exit 228, was originally constructed in the early 1980’s and opened in 1982 when another segment of the Tampa-to-Miami extension of Interstate 75 opened from US 301 (Exit 224) north to Big Bend Road (Exit 246).  When this segment opened the signage for the Interstate 275 southern terminus had “To US 41” signage initially as the remainder of Interstate 275 connecting US 41 to the Sunshine Skyway wasn’t built yet; the connection was finally made in 1984 and the “To US 41” signage was rightfully replaced with Interstate 275 north signage.

From Moccasin Wallow Road (Exit 229, the exit for the Florida Railroad Museum) southward to FL 681 (Exit 200) the original Interstate 75 mainline pavement was concrete but due to extensive settlement issues the concrete pavement was replaced with asphalt sometime in the 1990’s.  The flyover bridge from southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 has been repaired numerous times and those repairs do show on the bridge deck itself resulting in a somewhat bumpy ride.

So, the Florida DOT is going to address the issue of the flyover bridge from southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 at Exit 228 by replacing the bridge concrete deck.  Now for those of you that use this ramp to get from southbound Interstate 275 to northbound Interstate 75 which free flows into Moccasin Wallow Road (Exit 229) providing for easy Florida Railroad Museum access, that’s going to change as that ramp has to be closed so that the bridge deck can be replaced.

To get to the Florida Railroad Museum from St. Petersburg via the Sunshine Skyway Bridge while the flyover ramp is being reconstructed follow this detour:

  1.  Follow Interstate 75 south for Naples.  There are two lanes that free flow onto southbound Interstate 75.  But don’t worry, you’re not going to Naples – instead, you’re going to the next exit, US 301 (Exit 224).
  2. Exit Interstate 75 south at Exit 224, which will be US 301 to Palmetto and Ellenton.  You want to go north on US 301 through Ellenton.  Both Ellenton and Parrish are close to each other.
  3. North on US 301 for 7 miles to Parrish.  Immediately after passing the turn for FL 62 to Wauchula, cross the railroad tracks and make a right turn at 83 St E.
  4. Once you made that right turn, you have arrived at the Florida Railroad Museum!

Please allow yourself plenty of time to get to the museum, especially if you will be attending any of the events being held at the museum including the North Pole Express.  Especially for the North Pole Express, you want to be there as early as possible to pick up your tickets at Will Call and be on board the train prior to departure – the train departs on time as scheduled!

Additionally, if you need to get to northbound Interstate 75 from southbound Interstate 275 during the ramp closure, you can also use Interstate 75 south to US 301 (Exit 224) and turn around there.  When I read the Florida DOT project flyer for the Interstate 275 southbound to Interstate 75 northbound bridge deck replacement project, I was surprised to see the official detour the Florida DOT wants you to take:  Exit Interstate 275 at Exit 2 to US 41, then north on US 41 to FL 674 in Ruskin.  I don’t know what the detour planners at the Florida DOT were thinking of, but that route I think is way out of the way when closer alternatives exist (such as US 301, Exit 224) and there is an 11 mile separation between Moccasin Wallow Road (Exit 229) and FL 674 to Sun City Center and Ruskin (Exit 240).

In short, the flyover ramp connecting southbound Interstate 275 with northbound Interstate 75 at Interstate 275’s southern terminus on Interstate 75 at Exit 228 in Manatee County west of Parrish will be closed for about 10 months for needed bridge deck replacement.  Being an important route for those from St. Petersburg using the Sunshine Skyway Bridge reaching the Florida Railroad Museum, the detour is going to add to your travel time to the museum, so plan accordingly and arrive in plenty of time to pick up tickets and be on board the train prior to departure.

Reflections on the Sunshine Skyway Tragedy 38 Years Ago

Just a few days ago on Wednesday, 9 May 2018, we marked a somber occasion that took place on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge 38 years ago: The Day The Sunshine Skyway Fell, 9 May 1980.

Every 9 May we here at Interstate275Florida.com mark that somber occasion by retelling the story of The Day The Sunshine Skyway Fell. It along with the Sunshine Skyway’s four main channel piers – especially the southbound span’s Pier 1S – plus the two cantilever through truss twin bridges are forever etched into the history of the Tampa Bay region. As the years go by, it is important that our younger people learn what happened many years ago. Today’s Sunshine Skyway is the cable stayed four lane span we residents of and visitors to the Tampa Bay region know but when we take a ride over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and we see that fishing pier on both the Pinellas and Manatee sides of the bridge, our children ask us why the present bridge was built and what used to be of the fishing piers in their earlier heydays.

It’s very important that we learn history, whether it may be the railroad track that the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish runs on or what the Sunshine Skyway Bridge carrying Interstate 275 over Tampa Bay used to be. It’s also very important that classes on American History and World History are still taught in our public schools despite the present day curriculum based on Common Core and high stakes testing such as the Florida Standards Assessments Tests in Florida and the changed landscape of our public school systems.

That said, every 9 May here in the Tampa Bay region the story of the Sunshine Skyway tragedy must be retold. And it must be retold to the children that follow us. Join us now on the Interstate 275 Florida Blog as we retell the story of the Sunshine Skyway tragedy on 9 May 1980.

In the mouth of Tampa Bay, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was a classic twin cantilever span ready for yet another day. Another day of motorists driving across the bridge (and having to dread the steel grid deck) to get where they want to go. Another day of ships coming into and out of the Port of Tampa. Besides, being a Friday it’s the end of another work and school week.

The time: 5:43 AM. The date: Friday, 9 May 1980. The place: The shipping channel between Egmont Key and Ft. DeSoto Park.

When ships come into or out of the Port of Tampa, they have to be guided in or out by a harbor pilot so that these ships can be safely navigated through Tampa Bay and into the Port of Tampa. Back then, there was a major obstacle: The old Sunshine Skyway Bridge with its 864-foot center span, which was long enough for ships of the 1950’s. Aboard a pilot boat out of Egmont Key, harbor pilot John Lerro reported to duty aboard a vessel that came inbound from Houston a few days earlier; that vessel is the Summit Venture, a 606-foot freighter coming in to Tampa to take on a load of phosphate for somewhere in a distant part of the world.

Everything seems OK, until a severe thunderstorm arrives sometime after 7 AM. Visibility was reduced to zero and that John Lerro got very concerned. Would he miss the critical turn at Buoys 1A and 2A to avoid the Sunshine Skyway’s tall channel piers? After all, when you are on Interstate 275 and visibility drops to near zero, you take any and all measures to prevent a collision such as exiting the highway and waiting somewhere until the rain lets up.

Then, at 7:38 AM on Friday, 9 May 1980, Interstate 275 Florida history – and the history of the Tampa Bay region – would change forever, as far as the Sunshine Skyway is concerned.

The rains kept raging on preventing any visibility whatsoever. Then – out of nowhere – the Summit Venture was on a collision course with the southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and its Support Pier 2-S, the anchor pier just south of the main channel Pier 1-S that anchors the south cantilever and provides the transition from through truss to deck truss. John Lerro, the harbor pilot, tries everything to stop the ship from colliding with the bridge including reversing the engines and dropping the anchor.

Then impact. Impact with support Pier 2-S, the anchor pier which supports the south cantilever and is the transitional from the cantilever through truss to the deck truss.

Pier 2-S along with Pier 3-S and Pier 4-S make up part of the deck truss system that helps hold the cantilevers in place. Beyond Pier 4-S to Pier 16-S make up the deck girder section which leads back out to the low level trestle section of the Sunshine Skyway.

Compare the impact with Pier 2-S to a soda can as it relates to a compact car. The compact car has more mass than the soda can. Therefore, upon impact the soda can is crushed by the mass of the compact car. The same thing with the Summit Venture upon impact with Pier 2-S: After all, Pier 2-S was not designed for impact from a large vessel and, upon impact, Pier 2-S was sheared off its supports like a heavy sword.

Upon loss of support by Pier 2-S, the impact started a chain of events which would result in the deck truss from Pier 3-S northward plus the through truss from Pier 2-S to the point north of Pier 1-S (the main channel pier to the south of the shipping channel) collapsing into the churning waters of Tampa Bay below, including the south anchor arm and cantilever arm. Part of the span landed on the bow of the Summit Venture and the span collapsed by the roadway tilting to the east and dropping 150 feet into Tampa Bay. As the bridge was falling into Tampa Bay Pier 1-S was uncovered with no span on its top. With no south cantilever span and anchor arm, the suspended center span was being held up by the north cantilever arm and anchor arm but the northern arm could not take the load of the suspended center span on its own. The suspended center span tilted and fell into Tampa Bay as well.

In the end, thirty five people lost their lives that fateful morning including a few on a Greyhound bus headed for Miami. There were only two survivors: Richard Hornbuckle, who managed to stop his Buick Skylark a mere 14 inches from the abyss on the northern arm and Wesley McIntire, who drove off the broken end of the southbound span and survived by swimming to the top and being rescued by the Summit Venture crew.

Meanwhile:

I was going to a private high school on the day the Sunshine Skyway fell, and I was getting ready for school that morning. Back in 1980, we did not have Bay News 9 yet (in fact, my house did not have cable service yet – just an outdoor antenna receiving Channels 8, 10 or 13). Instead, I had a little AM radio tuned to WSUN-AM 620 listening to music while I was getting ready for school. Suddenly, Ronald J. Evin, the news director for WSUN at the time, came on with a special bulletin: A ship was ready to hit the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Well, I thought, it was probably another boat that would bump into the fender system and the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span would still be there. Or as I thought.

Once at school the TV was on and tuned to WTVT Channel 13, which was a CBS affiliate at the time. (Remember the programming that used to be there from a long time ago when WTVT was a CBS affiliate? WTVT became a FOX affiliate in the Great Tampa Bay Television Affiliate Switch of 1994 and WTVT has been a FOX Owned and Operated station since.) Once I saw the pictures for the first time I was totally shocked: The southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway was gone. I could not believe it!

When I got home, I watched WTVT Channel 13’s Pulse News at 6 PM on TV. This is when reality sank in: The Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span was gone. Images of the broken span, Pier 1-S (the tall channel pier that looks different than the other Sunshine Skyway channel piers due to repairs made to it in 1969, two years before the Sunshine Skyway southbound span opened for traffic), Richard Hornbuckle’s Buick Skylark stopped 14 inches away from the abyss and the Summit Venture with bridge debris on its bow were constantly being shown. Then at 7 PM the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was on; the first news story of the CBS newscast was the Sunshine Skyway disaster.

Two days later, when the northbound span was converted to handle two way traffic my mother, grandmother and I took a Sunday ride to check out the damage: A southbound span that was damaged beyond imagination, and a tall channel pier that stood out from the rest of the main channel piers on the Sunshine Skyway – Pier 1-S – which would stand out as an icon of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge for the next several years. Everyone else was checking it out too.

Besides, my mother was doing the driving – I haven’t received my driver’s license yet. The car I had was a 1974 Ford Mustang II and all it had was just an AM radio – no AM/FM/CD like you see in today’s cars and SUV’s. In fact, no entertainment center where you can listen to AM, FM, Sirius XM Satellite Radio or your own MP3 music on a flash drive. The radio was fixed onto WSUN AM 620 just like my little radio at home.

38 years later, things have changed over the years since the Sunshine Skyway tragedy.

First of all, I graduated from high school in 1983 and I had to write a senior year thesis. The subject? The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, from building to collapse.

In 1981, there were decisions that had to be made as far as the Sunshine Skyway is concerned. Rebuild the cantilever bridge or replace it with a new bridge? Florida Governor Bob Graham made the decision that would change the signature of the Tampa Bay region forever: A new, cable-stayed four lane Sunshine Skyway Bridge that met interstate highway standards. After all, Interstate 275 was built all the way to Queensboro Av S in south St. Petersburg with another section getting underway which would extend the highway to 39 Av S with interchanges at 22 Av S (Exit 19) and 26 Av S (Exit 18) and the ultimate goal was to connect Interstate 275 with the newly extended Interstate 75 to Naples and Miami. Besides, the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge did not meet interstate standards.

Construction on the new Sunshine Skyway began in 1982. On 30 April 1987, five years after construction started and a dedication ceremony held a few months earlier in February 1987, the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened to traffic. Shortly thereafter I would graduate from St. Petersburg Junior College (today’s St. Petersburg College) with my Associates’ degree.

Right after the new Sunshine Skyway opened both the old and new Sunshine Skyway bridges would stand next to each other. In 1991 the old Sunshine Skyway – both northbound and southbound spans including all the main channel piers including Pier 1-S, the channel pier that stood out after the Sunshine Skyway tragedy – was demolished. What was left of the northbound and southbound spans were converted into fishing piers as they are today.

Remembering the Sunshine Skyway Tragedy

When I wrote a similar blog entry five years ago in 2010 I paid a visit on Sunday, 9 May 2010 to the fishing pier on the northern end of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The center section including its signature main channel piers is long gone, but as I was standing at the end of the fishing pier I began to realize the bridge that used to be from its beginnings in 1954 as a single span and the second span in 1971 to the collapse in 1980 and what happened afterward. I took a look around the fishing pier and bait shop and all I found was nothing more than a little poster put up by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – the department responsible for Florida’s state parks and recreation areas including the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers – that told of the tragedy that took place on 9 May 1980.

Here’s a comment I left over at the St. Petersburg Times website discussing where people were when the Sunshine Skyway collapsed:

I have heard that there is some kind of memorial being put up at the fishing pier to remember the people whose lives were cut short by what happened. Perhaps a memorial – maybe a small obelisk structure consisting of a replica of the two tall channel piers (on the southbound span, the north channel pier – Pier 1N – had the identical look to their 1954 counterparts while the south channel pier – Pier 1S – had a different architectural look after repairs were made in 1969) – should be constructed as a memorial to the old Sunshine Skyway as well as the 35 people that perished that frightful morning. Besides, we remember people that we lost with monuments and memorials, especially World War II.

There’s already a memorial to the US Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn, which sunk just west of the old Sunshine Skyway in January 1980 after colliding with an oil tanker. I think the State of Florida ought to consider a memorial at the fishing pier of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge, built with private donations, as a reminder of the tragedy that happened that fateful morning of Friday, 9 May 1980 and afterward as well as triumph with the construction of the new bridge.

Well, fast forward five years to 2015. Saturday, 9 May 2015 to be exact. A memorial to the Sunshine Skyway tragedy would become reality thanks to a private individual.

Bill DeYoung wrote an excellent book of the true story of the Tampa Bay region’s signature bridge and of the events that led up to the tragedy at the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span on 9 May 1980. Bill’s book expertly documents the Sunshine Skyway from when it was built in 1954 and the twin southbound span in 1971 until tragedy struck that fateful Friday morning in May 1980.

At the same time the book was being promoted, there was strong interest for a memorial dedicated to the 35 people that lost their lives on 9 May 1980. A donation drive ensued, and with the blessing of the State of Florida to allow a monument to be constructed at the North Skyway Rest Area a memorial dedicated to the memory of the 35 people that lost their lives on the Sunshine Skyway that fateful morning became reality.

That memorial was dedicated at a public ceremony on Saturday, 9 May 2015. I paid a visit to the newly erected memorial later in the afternoon and I would say that it is a very beautiful and respectful memorial.

Now there are two memorials in the North Skyway Rest Area: One is the memorial to the USCGC Blackthorn which sank in Tampa Bay when it collided with the tanker Capricorn on 28 January 1980, and the other memorial of course is the memorial to the thirty five persons that lost their lives when the Sunshine Skyway was hit by the Summit Venture on Friday, 9 May 1980 at 7:38 AM. Both memorials are part of the North Skyway Rest Area and are open 24 hours a day; simply take the exit for the North Skyway Rest Area from Interstate 275 and follow the signs for the rest area. Once in the rest area both memorials are on the left; the Skyway memorial is the first memorial just before you approach the rest area building and the Blackthorn memorial is the second memorial across the drive from the rest area building. There is ample parking provided in the rest area and nighttime security is provided for peace of mind.

CONSTRUCTION ALERT: Currently as of May 2018 the Sunshine Skyway’s north rest area is undergoing a complete reconstruction of the rest area building. The Sunshine Skyway and Blackthorn memorials are still open but please be sure to park only in areas that are not blocked off by barricades, follow all temporary traffic control devices and most importantly do not enter any construction areas. The Sunshine Skyway’s south rest area on the Manatee County side is still open.

I highly recommend Bill DeYoung’s book, and you can purchase it from Amazon in either traditional hard copy format or in electronic Amazon Kindle format which you can read on practically any device such as your desktop or laptop computer, iPhone, iPad, Android – you name it. This book is the Sunshine Skyway tragedy well researched and done.

With two memorials in the North Skyway Rest Area, perhaps the Florida DOT should update the signage on the Interstate 275 mainline just before the exit for the North Skyway Rest Area. Presently the signage is just for the Blackthorn memorial.

In respect to the thirty five people who perished that fateful morning on Friday, 9 May 1980, here is a closeup picture of the newly dedicated monument with the names of the thirty five people who perished that day – The Day The Skyway Fell (click on the photo to enlarge):

The Skyway 10K Run on Sunday, 4 March 2018

As you are probably aware, the Skyway 10K Run will be taking place the morning of Sunday, 4 March 2018.  The run will take place in the morning hours utilizing the northbound lanes of the Sunshine Skyway.

From 4 AM to about 10 AM the northbound lanes of the Sunshine Skyway carrying Interstate 275 traffic in the direction of St. Petersburg will be closed for the event.  What that means is during those hours if you need to get from Bradenton, Ellenton, Parrish or anywhere in Manatee County to St. Petersburg you will have to use Interstate 75 north to either the Selmon Crosstown Expressway or Interstate 4 in Tampa and head west across the Howard Frankland or Gandy Bridges into St. Petersburg.

Southbound Interstate 275 traffic crossing the Sunshine Skyway is not affected; however, traffic delays are quite possible.  If you are headed to the Florida Railroad Museum, especially for the 2 PM Murder Mystery Dinner Train, you will want to keep on reading.

As traffic delays are possible even after the Skyway 10K Run has ended, if you are coming from St. Petersburg for Sunday’s Murder Mystery Dinner Train at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish you will want to leave early and give yourself extra time to get to the museum’s station facilities in Parrish so that you can pick up your tickets at the ticket office and gift shop and be in the boarding area ready to board the train.  Boarding for the Murder Mystery Dinner Train begins at 1:30 PM and the train departs at 2 PM.  Same thing if you are going to the Florida Railroad Museum for their regularly scheduled 11 AM train ride – again, if you’re coming from St. Petersburg be sure to leave early and give yourself extra time to get your tickets.

To recap, the Skyway 10K Run will be held on the morning of Sunday, 4 March 2018.  Only the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 crossing the Sunshine Skyway will be closed for the duration of the event, reopening sometime around 10 AM.  The southbound lanes are not affected, but traffic delays are possible especially during and for some time after the event.

On the other hand, if you are participating in the Skyway 10K Run, it is very important that you attend their pre-race expo being held at Tropicana Field the day before the race (Saturday, 3 March 2018) as the race organizers will give you your race packet and your bus assignment.  The Skyway 10K Run web site has all the details you need.

Whether you’re headed south across the Sunshine Skyway to ride the Murder Mystery Dinner Train at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish or you are one of the few participating in the Skyway 10K Run on Sunday, 4 March 2018, be safe and have fun!

 

The Revamped Interstate275Florida.com and Happy Birthday Sunshine Skyway!

By now the newly revamped Interstate275Florida.com is up and running!  It didn’t take long to upload the new site albeit a few minor glitches along the way, especially when it came to deleting the old website files in order to make way for the new and revamped website.
Haven’t you checked out the newly revamped Interstate275Florida.com?  I have organized the website into three general sections, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Manatee County.  From there it is organized into individual exits based on the location of the exit.
All of the photos have been revised in order to keep the content fresh and up to date as time permits.  In fact, there are new pictures of the segment of Interstate 275 in Tampa from Exit 39 (FL 60/Kennedy Blvd./Tampa Airport) to the Hillsborough river just west of Exit 44 (Ashley Drive) thanks to the mega-reconstruction project that has taken place.
Another new feature I have added is a Tampa Bay Transit:  The Justification for Rail Based Mass Transit in the Tampa Bay region page.  This page was badly needed, as we have the resources to support rail based mass transit in the Tampa Bay region and one of those resources is the wide median in the newly reconstructed Interstate 275 in Tampa.  Just why does Miami and Orlando have alternative modes of transportation yet the Tampa Bay region has very limited choices?  It’s well worth a read!
Please feel free to check out the newly revamped Interstate275Florida.com!  Like I said from a previous blog entry just before I uploaded the new site if you have pages that link to Interstate275Florida.com check the links to make sure that they work and update as needed.  For example, the web pages used to end in .htm but now they end in .html, so you’ll want to check that.  Additionally, if you happen to find a broken link anywhere on Interstate275Florida.com please feel free to contact me (you can even post a reply to this blog entry) along with the URL in question and I will take a look at it.
Now with the newly revamped Interstate275Florida.com up and running, today (7 February 2017) is the new Sunshine Skyway’s 30th birthday!  Dedicated on Saturday, 7 February 1987 it was a gloomy day but the sun peeked out a few times for an awesome dedication ceremony.  A major highlight of the day was that pedestrians were allowed on the new bridge only once – I made the hike to the hump of the new span and back!  I call that quite a workout!
Another highlight of the day is the actual dedication with many important dignitaries in attendance.  The new Sunshine Skyway dedication is a day I’ll never forget – in fact, it seems like if it was yesterday even though it was 30 years earlier!
On 30 April 1987, traffic was stopped while workers set up barricades blocking access to the old Sunshine Skyway.  It would be no more cantilever through truss with steel grid deck span that we were used to since the first Sunshine Skyway opened in 1954.  The old Sunshine Skyway served the Tampa Bay region well, both in triumph and in tragedy especially on 9 May 1980 when the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span was hit by the Summit Venture, resulting in the tragic loss of 35 lives.  Shortly after the barricades went up on the old Sunshine Skyway, it was time to take down the barricades and open up a new chapter in the history of the Tampa Bay region:  The opening of the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
In fact, I have even revamped the Sunshine Skyway page as part of the newly revamped Interstate275Florida.com and it has pictures from the dedication ceremony on 7 February 1987.  Come by and check it out!
After all, the new Sunshine Skyway is not only just an icon of what the Tampa Bay region is all about.  The new Sunshine Skyway is a signature icon of our great Sunshine State of Florida, similar to what the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco being a signature icon of the Golden State of California.
 

What to do if the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is closed

Happy New Year!  (Even though we are a few weeks into 2016!)

Lately we have been having a good share of bad weather, sometimes it would get so bad that the Sunshine Skyway Bridge has to be closed due to high winds.  Let’s say you are in St. Petersburg and you are headed south over the Sunshine Skyway to an event taking place at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish.  Perhaps Hole in the Head Gang Train Robbery?  Hobo Campfire Cookout?  Murder Mystery Express?  Day Out With Thomas?  Or a regular train ride?

OK.  Florida Railroad Museum tickets ordered and ready at will call?  Check!
Vehicle ready to go?  Check!

Now you got that covered, you find your way onto Interstate 275 south.  All that stands between you and the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish is the reliable Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the tremendous time saver between St. Petersburg and Bradenton since 1954.

You are about to pass the last exit before the Sunshine Skyway, which is Pinellas Point Drive South, Exit 16.  Uh-Oh!  Florida Highway Patrol troopers or St. Petersburg Police officers directing you to exit at Pinellas Point Drive South instead of continuing south onto the Sunshine Skyway.  The trooper or officer tells you that the Sunshine Skyway is closed due to high winds.

Bummer.  High winds.  What do you do if the Sunshine Skyway is closed?

If you are in St. Petersburg, you unfortunately have a 40-mile detour through Tampa via Interstate 75.  It will take a lot more time to get from St. Petersburg to Parrish and the Florida Railroad Museum, but you’ll get there.

In order to bypass the temporary Sunshine Skyway closure due to high winds, you have two choices from St. Petersburg.  Both routes involve transit through Tampa.

1.  Follow Interstate 275 north over the Howard Frankland Bridge to Interstate 4 (Exit 45B).  Next, follow Interstate 4 east for a short distance to the Selmon Crosstown Expressway by way of the connector highway which will enable you to transition seamlessly from eastbound Interstate 4 to eastbound Selmon Crosstown Expressway.  Once on the Crosstown follow it east to Interstate 75 south, then follow Interstate 75 south.

2.  Follow Interstate 275 north but exit the highway at FL 694/Gandy Blvd. (Exit 28), then east across the Gandy Bridge into Tampa.  Enter the Selmon Crosstown Expressway and follow it for its entire length to Interstate 75 south.  Remember to keep your SunPass funded, as the Selmon Crosstown Expressway is a cashless toll facility.  Unlike the Sunshine Skyway, there are no toll booths on the Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

Now if you are headed in the opposite direction from Bradenton to St. Petersburg and the Sunshine Skyway is closed, it’s very simple.  Simply reverse the directions as given above, just allow for extra time going through Tampa.

As I mentioned in a post from 2012, this is a great time to let you know what criteria is used in deciding to close the Sunshine Skyway Bridge due to dangerous weather. On the main span of the Sunshine Skyway are wind speed detectors which send a wind speed report to the Florida Highway Patrol’s Tampa Bay Regional Communications Center. It is the personnel in the communications center that make a recommendation to FHP troopers whether to close the Sunshine Skyway due to dangerous weather. Moreover, the FHP troopers out there patrolling the Sunshine Skyway also keep a close eye on weather conditions including how windy it is out there on the main span.

When wind speeds hover close to 40 mph (60 km/h) FHP troopers keep a close eye on conditions on the Sunshine Skyway, including activating the yellow flashing lights that warn motorists entering the bridge of high winds. Once the winds get sustained above 40 mph, FHP troopers will order the Sunshine Skyway closed.

Once the order to close the Sunshine Skyway is given, FHP troopers will direct motorists off of Interstate 275, southbound in St. Petersburg at Pinellas Point Drive South (Exit 16) and northbound in Palmetto/Ellenton at both US 41 (Exit 2) and on US 19 north at the last turn before toll at Exit 5 (that is the northbound entrance to Interstate 275 from US 19). Additionally, the closure order is passed on to the Florida DOT so that the electronic variable message signs found on Interstate 275 as well as Interstates 75 and 4 are updated with closure information advising motorists to seek alternative routes.

After all, closures of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge due to dangerous weather are not taken very lightly. If in the event the Florida Highway Patrol has to close the Sunshine Skyway due to dangerous weather, it is for one good reason: Your safety.   After all, no one – including me – wants to be out there on the Sunshine Skyway’s 191-foot high main span during dangerous weather.

And if you have to be somewhere across the Sunshine Skyway such as an event at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, plan ahead.

Reflections on the Sunshine Skyway Tragedy 35 Years Ago

9 May.

In 1921 Sophie Scholl, the principal force behind the White Rose movement in Germany during World War II, was born.

In 1955 West Germany joins NATO.

In 1974, The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee begins formal impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon in the Watergate Scandal.

In 1980:

Slovenia was not an independent nation yet – it was still a constituent republic of Yugoslavia, which was mourning the death of its longtime leader Josip Broz Tito earlier on 4 May 1980.

The Cuban boatlift was still going on, with refugees pouring in to the United States on boats coming out of Mariel Harbor.

Meanwhile, in the mouth of Tampa Bay, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was a classic twin cantilever span ready for yet another day.  Another day of motorists driving across the bridge (and having to dread the steel grid deck) to get where they want to go.  Another day of ships coming into and out of the Port of Tampa.  Besides, being a Friday it’s the end of another work and school week.

The time:  5:43 AM.  The date:  Friday, 9 May 1980.  The place:  The shipping channel between Egmont Key and Ft. DeSoto Park.

When ships come into or out of the Port of Tampa, they have to be guided in or out by a harbor pilot so that these ships can be safely navigated through Tampa Bay and into the Port of Tampa.  Back then, there was a major obstacle:  The old Sunshine Skyway Bridge with its 864-foot center span, which was long enough for ships of the 1950’s.  Aboard a pilot boat out of Egmont Key, harbor pilot John Lerro reported to duty aboard a vessel that came inbound from Houston a few days earlier; that vessel is the Summit Venture, a 606-foot freighter coming in to Tampa to take on a load of phosphate for somewhere in a distant part of the world.

Everything seems OK, until a severe thunderstorm arrives sometime after 7 AM.  Visibility was reduced to zero and that John Lerro concerned.  Would he miss the critical turn at Buoys 1A and 2A to avoid the Sunshine Skyway’s tall channel piers?  After all, when you are on Interstate 275 and visibility drops to near zero, you take any and all measures to prevent a collision such as exiting the highway and waiting somewhere until the rain lets up.

Then, at 7:38 AM on Friday, 9 May 1980, Interstate 275 Florida history would change forever, as far as the Sunshine Skyway is concerned.

The rains kept raging on preventing any visibility whatsoever.  Then – out of nowhere – the Summit Venture was on a collision course with the southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and its Support Pier 2-S, the anchor pier just south of the main channel Pier 1-S that anchors the south cantilever and provides the transition from through truss to deck truss.  John Lerro, the harbor pilot, tries everything to stop the ship from colliding with the bridge including reversing the engines and dropping the anchor.

Then impact.

Compare the impact to a soda can as it related to a compact car.  The compact car has more mass than the soda can.  Therefore, upon impact the soda can is crushed by the mass of the compact car.  The same thing with the Summit Venture upon impact with Pier 2-S:  After all, Pier 2-S was not designed for impact from a large vessel and, upon impact, Pier 2-S was sheared off its supports like a heavy sword.

Upon loss of support by Pier 2-S, the impact started a chain of events which would result in the deck truss from Pier 3-S northward plus the through truss from Pier 2-S to the point north of Pier 1-S (the main channel pier to the south of the shipping channel) collapsing into the churning waters of Tampa Bay below, including the south anchor arm and cantilever arm.  This left behind the suspended center span which was being held up by the north cantilever arm and anchor arm but the northern arm could not take the load of the suspended center span on its own.  The suspended center span fell into Tampa Bay as well.

In the end, thirty five people lost their lives that fateful morning including a few on a Greyhound bus headed for Miami.  There were only two survivors:  Richard Hornbuckle, who managed to stop his Buick Skylark a mere 14 inches from the abyss on the northern arm and Wesley McIntire, who drove off the broken end of the southbound span and survived by swimming to the top and being rescued by the Summit Venture crew.

Meanwhile:

I was going to a private high school on the day the Sunshine Skyway fell, and I was getting ready for school that morning.  Back in 1980, we did not have Bay News 9 yet (in fact, my house did not have cable service yet – just an outdoor antenna receiving Channels 8, 10 or 13).  Instead, I had a little AM radio tuned to WSUN-AM 620 listening to music while I was getting ready for school.  Suddenly, Ronald J. Evin, the news director for WSUN at the time, came on with a special bulletin:  A ship was ready to hit the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Well, I thought, it was probably another boat that would bump into the fender system and the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span would still be there.  Or as I thought.

Once at school the TV was on and tuned to WTVT Channel 13, which was a CBS affiliate at the time.  (Remember the programming that used to be there from a long time ago when WTVT was a CBS affiliate?  WTVT became a FOX affiliate in the Great Tampa Bay Television Affiliate Switch of 1994 and WTVT has been a FOX Owned and Operated station since.)  Once I saw the pictures for the first time I was totally shocked:  The southbound span of the Sunshine Skyway was gone.  I could not believe it!

Two days later, when the northbound span was converted to handle two way traffic my mother, grandmother and I took a Sunday ride to check out the damage:  A southbound span that was damaged beyond imagination, and a tall channel pier that stood out from the rest of the mail channel piers on the Sunshine Skyway – Pier 1-S – which would stand out as an icon of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge for the next several years.  Everyone else was checking it out too.

Besides, my mother was doing the driving – I haven’t received my driver’s license yet.  The car I had was a 1974 Ford Mustang II and all it had was just an AM radio – no AM/FM/CD like you see in today’s cars and SUV’s.  In fact, no entertainment center where you can listen to AM, FM, XM Satellite Radio or your own MP3 music on a flash drive.  The radio was fixed onto WSUN AM 620 just like my little radio at home.

35 years later, things have changed over the years since the Sunshine Skyway tragedy.

First of all, I graduated from high school in 1983 and I had to write a senior year thesis.  The subject?  The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, from building to collapse.

In 1981, there were decisions that had to be made as far as the Sunshine Skyway is concerned.  Rebuild the cantilever bridge or replace it with a new bridge?  Florida Governor Bob Graham made the decision that would change the signature of the Tampa Bay region forever:  A new, cable-stayed four lane Sunshine Skyway Bridge that met interstate highway standards.  After all, Interstate 275 was built all the way to Queensboro Av S in south St. Petersburg with another section getting underway which would extend the highway to 39 Av S with interchanges at 22 Av S (Exit 19) and 26 Av S (Exit 18) and the ultimate goal was to connect Interstate 275 with the newly extended Interstate 75 to Naples and Miami.  Besides, the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge did not meet interstate standards.

Construction on the new Sunshine Skyway began in 1982.  On 30 April 1987, five years after construction started, the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened to traffic.

Right after the new Sunshine Skyway opened both the old and new Sunshine Skyway bridges would stand next to each other.  In 1991 the old Sunshine Skyway – both northbound and southbound spans including all the main channel piers including Pier 1-S, the channel pier that stood out after the Sunshine Skyway tragedy – was demolished.  What was left of the northbound and southbound spans were converted into fishing piers as they are today.

When I wrote a similar blog entry five years ago in 2010 I paid a visit on Sunday, 9 May 2010 to the fishing pier on the northern end of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  The center section including its signature main channel piers is long gone, but as I was standing at the end of the fishing pier I began to realize the bridge that used to be from its beginnings in 1954 as a single span and the second span in 1971 to the collapse in 1980 and what happened afterward.  I took a look around the fishing pier and bait shop and all I found was nothing more than a little poster put up by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – the department responsible for Florida’s state parks and recreation areas including the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers – that told of the tragedy that took place on 9 May 1980.

Here’s a comment I left over at the St. Petersburg Times website discussing where people were when the Sunshine Skyway collapsed:

I have heard that there is some kind of memorial being put up at the fishing pier to remember the people whose lives were cut short by what happened. Perhaps a memorial – maybe a small obelisk structure consisting of a replica of the two tall channel piers (on the southbound span, the north channel pier – Pier 1N – had the identical look to their 1954 counterparts while the south channel pier – Pier 1S – had a different architectural look after repairs were made in 1969) – should be constructed as a memorial to the old Sunshine Skyway as well as the 35 people that perished that frightful morning. Besides, we remember people that we lost with monuments and memorials, especially World War II.

There’s already a memorial to the US Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn, which sunk just west of the old Sunshine Skyway in January 1980 after colliding with an oil tanker.  I think the State of Florida ought to consider a memorial at the fishing pier of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge, built with private donations, as a reminder of the tragedy that happened that fateful morning of Friday, 9 May 1980 and afterward as well as triumph with the construction of the new bridge.

Well, fast forward five years to 2015.  Saturday, 9 May 2015 to be exact.  A memorial to the Sunshine Skyway tragedy would become reality thanks to a private individual.

Bill DeYoung wrote an excellent book of the true story of the Tampa Bay region’s signature bridge and of the events that led up to the tragedy at the Sunshine Skyway’s southbound span on 9 May 1980.  Bill’s book expertly documents the Sunshine Skyway from when it was built in 1954 and the twin southbound span in 1971 until tragedy struck that fateful Friday morning in May 1980.

At the same time the book was being promoted, there was strong interest for a memorial dedicated to the 35 people that lost their lives on 9 May 1980.  A donation drive ensued, and with the blessing of the State of Florida to allow a monument to be constructed at the North Skyway Rest Area a memorial dedicated to the memory of the 35 people that lost their lives on the Sunshine Skyway that fateful morning became reality.

That memorial was dedicated at a public ceremony on Saturday, 9 May 2015.  I paid a visit to the newly erected memorial later in the afternoon and I would say that it is a very beautiful and respectful memorial.

Now there are two memorials in the North Skyway Rest Area:  One is the memorial to the USCGC Blackthorn which sank in Tampa Bay when it collided with the tanker Capricorn on 28 January 1980, and the other memorial of course is the memorial to the thirty five persons that lost their lives when the Sunshine Skyway was hit by the Summit Venture on Friday, 9 May 1980 at 7:38 AM.  Both memorials are part of the North Skyway Rest Area and are open 24 hours a day; simply take the exit for the North Skyway Rest Area from Interstate 275 and follow the signs for the rest area.  Once in the rest area both memorials are on the left; the Skyway memorial is the first memorial just before you approach the rest area building and the Blackthorn memorial is the second memorial across the drive from the rest area building.  There is ample parking provided in the rest area and nighttime security is provided for peace of mind.

I highly recommend Bill DeYoung’s book, and you can purchase it from Amazon in either traditional hard copy format or in electronic Amazon Kindle format which you can read on practically any device such as your desktop or laptop computer, iPhone, iPad, Android – you name it.  This book is the Sunshine Skyway tragedy well researched and done.

With two memorials in the North Skyway Rest Area, perhaps the Florida DOT should update the signage on the Interstate 275 mainline just before the exit for the North Skyway Rest Area.  Presently the signage is just for the Blackthorn memorial.

In respect to the thirty five people who perished that fateful morning on Friday, 9 May 1980, here is a closeup picture of the newly dedicated monument with the names of the thirty five people who perished that day – The Day The Skyway Fell (click on the photo to enlarge):

Sunshine Skyway Bridge closures due to dangerous weather

With Tropical Storm Debby bouncing out there in the Gulf of Mexico, it is wreaking havoc in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area as far as high winds and flooding are concerned.

All from a tropical storm sitting out there in the Gulf of Mexico close to Florida. Remember Hurricane Elena over Labor Day weekend in 1985?

Now is a good time to let you know what criteria is used in deciding to close the Sunshine Skyway Bridge due to dangerous weather. On the main span of the Sunshine Skyway are wind speed detectors which send a wind speed report to the Florida Highway Patrol’s Tampa Bay Regional Communications Center. It is the personnel in the communications center that make a recommendation to FHP troopers whether to close the Sunshine Skyway due to dangerous weather. Moreover, the FHP troopers out there patrolling the Sunshine Skyway also keep a close eye on weather conditions including how windy it is out there on the main span.

When wind speeds hover close to 40 mph (60 km/h) FHP troopers keep a close eye on conditions on the Sunshine Skyway, including activating the yellow flashing lights that warn motorists entering the bridge of high winds. Once the winds get sustained above 40 mph, FHP troopers will order the Sunshine Skyway closed.

Once the order to close the Sunshine Skyway is given, FHP troopers will direct motorists off of Interstate 275, southbound in St. Petersburg at Pinellas Point Drive South (Exit 16) and northbound in Palmetto/Ellenton at both US 41 (Exit 2) and on US 19 north at the last turn before toll at Exit 5 (that is the northbound entrance to Interstate 275 from US 19). Additionally, the closure order is passed on to the Florida DOT so that the electronic variable message signs found on Interstate 275 as well as Interstates 75 and 4 are updated with closure information advising motorists to seek alternative routes.

After all, closures of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge due to dangerous weather are not taken very lightly. If in the event the Florida Highway Patrol has to close the Sunshine Skyway due to dangerous weather, it is for one good reason: Your safety. After all, no one – including me – wants to be out there on the Sunshine Skyway’s 191-foot high main span during dangerous weather.

Be safe out there!

SunPass to be accepted outside of Florida soon

The SunPass. That little electronic gadget that attaches inside on your front windshield using the suction cups attached. It’s that little gadget that pays your tolls in Florida!

When you cross the Sunshine Skyway or use any of the toll facilities in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area (such as the Veterans Expressway, Suncoast Parkway, the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway or the Pinellas Bayway) or elsewhere such as the Florida’s Turnpike you probably know by now how SunPass is so convenient: No need to stop for the toll booth, especially when it’s raining as in Florida’s summer thundershowers that happen usually in the afternoon.

For us Floridians that like the convenience of SunPass not only to pay for your tolls and for your airport parking at select airports throughout the state including Tampa International Airport, you are probably asking yourself this same question regarding convenience if you take a trip to any of the 14 states in the northeast United States that have a similar electronic toll collection system called EZ-Pass. Right now if you wanted to pay your tolls electronically using EZ-Pass you had to get an EZ-Pass transponder from one of the member states in the EZ-Pass Consortium (such as EZ-Pass Maryland, for instance) and fund an account similar to your SunPass account back home in Florida.

Good news: Soon you will be able to use your Florida SunPass outside of the State of Florida. According to this article on the coming interoperability of SunPass with other toll agencies outside the Sunshine State I found on ABC Action News (WFTS-TV Channel 28, the ABC affiliate here in Tampa), within months the equipment will be upgraded to allow for interoperability of SunPass with the 14 states in the northeastern United States that belong to EZ-Pass.

What does this mean for you:

You will be able to use your SunPass when you travel on toll roads and bridges that are part of the 14-state EZ-Pass Consortium. Imagine in Maryland, you take a ride on the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore and you pay for your tolls using your trusty SunPass from Florida. Talk about convenience!

What does this mean for our seasonal visitors that come south to the Sunshine State for winter:

You got lots of places to use your EZ-Pass. Soon you will be able to use your EZ-Pass from your home state on the Sunshine Skyway when you come on down to Florida for the winter season. Talk about simplicity – no separate toll account to open and maintain when you come south.

In the meantime, you may want to check the SunPass web site or the EZ-Pass web site for the state that issued your EZ-Pass for updates on when both systems become interoperable. But once SunPass and EZ-Pass are interoperable it will mean convenience for you.

Now there’s another value to your SunPass. Now if only SunPass would achieve interoperability not only with EZ-Pass but with California’s FasTrak as well.

The Sunshine Skyway: Coming Soon to a Postage Stamp Near You

Soon the Sunshine Skyway will be featured on a postage stamp. You got that right, a U.S. postage stamp.

I was amazed to see the Sunshine Skyway finally earning its place on a postage stamp. After all, the current Sunshine Skyway – opened in 1987 – is a bridge that not only carries Interstate 275 and US 19, it is a iconic symbol of what we are in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

The Sunshine Skyway is also a symbol of triumph over tragedy. Seven years before the current Sunshine Skyway opened tragedy struck on a rainy and stormy morning at 7:38 AM on 9 May 1980 when the Summit Venture collided with an anchor pier immediately adjacent to the main channel pier on the southbound span which opened in 1971. Upon impact the anchor pier was sheared off at its base causing a major chain of events which led to a majority of the southbound main span falling 150 feet into the waters of Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, 35 lives were lost that fateful morning which included passengers on a Miami-bound Greyhound Bus.

The northbound span – which was the original Sunshine Skyway built in 1954 – was undamaged. Shortly after the southbound span fell the northbound span was checked out by the Florida DOT for structural damage, and on Sunday, 11 May 1980 the northbound span was reopened to two-way traffic with a 45 mph (70 km/h) speed limit and a double yellow no passing line.

In the months following the Sunshine Skyway disaster a major decision had to be made: Either rebuild the southbound span to what it was before the accident or build an entirely new bridge. The reaction was mixed, with Pinellas and Manatee interests wanting to rebuild the southbound span and Hillsbiorough interests – after all, the main shipping channel is part of Hillsborough County as the Sunshine Skyway covers three counties – wanted an entirely new bridge which would be safer. Besides, Interstate 275 was under construction in St. Petersburg and the Sunshine Skyway would be an important part of Interstate 275 as it would connect St. Petersburg with the newly extended Interstate 75 to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.

In the end, a newly constructed Sunshine Skyway won. Construction began in 1982 and dedication ceremonies were held in February 1987, followed by its formal opening in April 1987. The original 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span served its purpose carrying two way traffic from right after the accident on 9 May 1980 to when the new Sunshine Skyway opened. Four years later after the new Sunshine Skyway opened, in 1991 the old Sunshine Skyway spans were demolished.

Today the Sunshine Skyway not just carries Interstate 275 over Tampa Bay providing a breathtaking view at 191 feet, it is an icon which represents the purpose of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Compare the Sunshine Skyway in Florida to the Golden Gate Bridge in California; after all, the Golden Gate Bridge represents the purpose of the San Francisco area similar to the Sunshine Skyway even though the bridge designs are different.

Now the Sunshine Skyway has earned its place as one of the major bridges in the United States. Being on a U.S. postage stamp plus its popularity over the years has landed the Sunshine Skyway into a permanent national spotlight.

By the way, the postage stamp is supposed to be released sometime in 2012 according to articles both on Bay News 9 as well as the St. Petersburg Times. The value of the stamp is equivalent to the current 1-lb. Priority Mail rate, which is $5.15.

I’m excited to see the new postage stamp for myself when it’s released.

The sun sets on the Sunshine Skyway – the fishing piers, that is

I know, it’s been a while since I posted here on the Interstate 275 Florida blog. But I recently found something interesting related to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge according to this Bay News 9 article, specifically the fishing piers on either side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Let me give you some historical factoid on how the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge was transformed into fishing piers. In 1987 the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge as we know it today was opened to traffic, replacing a twin cantilever span built in 1954 and 1971. The 1971 span as we know was damaged on 9 May 1980 when the Summit Venture collided with an anchor pier on the main span immediately south of the main channel pier which resulted in the loss of 35 lives, including several people on a Greyhound bus bound for Miami.

Four years later after the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge opened to traffic, in 1991 the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge – in particular, the main high level cantilever spans – was demolished. However, a good part of the old spans were kept for use as a fishing pier which served their purpose for many years more.

Unfortunately, the remnants of what used to be the 1954 northbound span of the old Sunshine Skyway being used as a fishing pier began showing serious deterioration. A consulting engineer hired by the Florida DOT took a look and the deterioration was so serious that the span merited permanent closure to the public and demolition.

So, it is what is left of the 1954 northbound span of the old Sunshine Skyway – which was used as a fishing pier – that is being demolished. The remnants of the 1971 southbound span of the old Sunshine Skyway is still in use as a fishing pier.

It’s sad to see a piece of Tampa Bay area memorabilia fall to the wrecker’s ball. But add in the cost of extended upkeep and it can get quite expensive. On a side note, it’s not just the old 1954 Sunshine Skyway northbound span that is being demolished – the old 1956 westbound span of the Gandy Bridge, used for many years as the Friendship Trail, has been closed due to serious deterioration and I believe it is slated for demolition. I can go on forever about the Friendship Trail, but I’ll save it for another topic.

Here’s a website for more information about the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers – skywaypiers.com. To get there, there are two fishing piers, one on the north end and the other on the south end. To get to the north end fishing pier, simply exit Interstate 275 at the north rest area and follow the signs to the fishing pier. To get to the south end fishing pier, simply exit Interstate 275 at the south rest area and follow the signs which will lead you on a road that takes you over a small bridge that parallels the Interstate 275 mainline and the entrance gate to the south fishing pier will be straight ahead.

Admission prices are as follows, according to the skywaypiers.com website:

$4.00 for your vehicle, plus $4.00 for each adult or $2.00 for each child 6 to 11 years old. Children 5 and under are admitted free. This allows you access for 24 hours to either fishing pier. If you want just to sightsee, a one-hour pass, valid from sunrise to sunset, is available for $3.00.

It makes for a great day trip!