TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa has several bridges connecting various parts of the city. While these bridges serve as vital transportation links, some drivers have expressed grave concern over the safety of the side barriers, arguing that they are too low. These low barriers have raised questions about the risks of driving on Tampa bridges, especially in bad weather conditions.
One only needs to look at local news reports from recent years to see that the height of the side barriers on Tampa bridges has been a subject of much debate for quite some time.
At issue is that the barriers on Tampa bridges are, on average, around 32 inches tall, which is much lower than the 42-inch height recommended by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
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While several other cities in the United States have already raised their barriers to meet AASHTO guidelines, Tampa has yet to take action, and it is unclear if it ever will.
Safety on Tampa Bridges
Critics of the current barrier height argue that they are insufficient to prevent vehicles from going over the edge of the bridge. They point out that even minor collisions can cause a car to go over the side and into the water, with potentially fatal consequences. In addition, some drivers have expressed discomfort with the low barriers, especially during heavy rain or windy conditions.
However, proponents of the current barrier height argue that raising the barriers would be costly and may not necessarily improve safety. They point out that other factors, such as driver behavior, weather conditions, and road maintenance, can also contribute to accidents on Tampa bridges.
The Howard Frankland Bridge has been the sight of many accidents, due to driver distractions and even caused by wrong way drivers. They note that no major accidents on Tampa’s bridges have been attributed to low barrier heights.
So, are the barriers on Tampa bridges safe for drivers? While there is no consensus on the matter, it is clear that the current barrier height is a source of concern for some people and an issue that has caused much contentious debate.
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Some have suggested another way to address the issue is by adding additional safety measures, such as warning signs or rumble strips, improving road maintenance, or exploring alternative barrier designs. Ultimately, the goal should be to ensure that Tampa’s bridges are safe and secure for all drivers.
The barriers on the Howard Frankland Bridge will be raised as a part of a major expansion that began in 2022. Safety nets have been added to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to prevent suicides.
Whether or not the barriers on other Tampa bridges should be raised to meet AASHTO guidelines is a decision that will ultimately have to be made based on a thorough assessment of the risks and benefits involved. In the meantime, drivers should exercise caution and stay alert when driving on Tampa bridges, particularly in adverse weather conditions.
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