A barricade now blocks access to the bridge 43 pedestrian underpass
CLEARWATER - The pedestrian underpass at the west end of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway has been closed. The city's engineering department recently discovered that the structure, installed under the small Bridge 43 over Mandalay Channel, was rusting and determined that it was unsafe to use.
Originally installed in 1999 as part of the Roundabout project at a cost of $500-thousand, the underpass provided a north/south pedestrian walkway on the east side of the roundabout, enhancing pedestrian safety and eliminating the traffic congestion that would have resulted from a street-level crosswalk.
According to Engineering Manager Glen Bahnick, the city is negotiating warranty options with the bridge manufacturer, Biltolast Products, Inc. Meanwhile, barricade fencing has been installed across the underpass entrances, with signs directing pedestrians to use crosswalks around the circumference of the roundabout to get from the Municipal Marina to the Poinsettia/East Shore area.
Clearwater Police Lt. Wayne Andrews said that he will take emergency measures, stationing police aides, Americorps staffers or volunteers at the west end of the causeway to discourage pedestrians from crossing it and to direct them around the roundabout's other pedestrian crosswalks.
While the underpass has been closed, the popular fishing platforms at its ends are not. No longer able to use the underpass, fishermen with their gear in tow have been seen crossing the causeway to get to the nearby bait shop and the opposite platform.
Although warranty options are being explored, the future of the bridge is uncertain. City Engineer Mike Quillen wrote, "At this time there is no plan to replace it because the general consensus is that pedestrians don't use it. If there is a huge outcry from the public we will look at replacing it with something that won't corrode."
A timetable for deciding what to do next about the rusting bridge has not been established. Meanwhile, be prepared for a long hike if you intend to walk between the Poinsettia/East Shore area and the Municipal Marina.