Sand Key Bridge, Clearwater
Originally built as a drawbridge in the 1960's and reconstructed as a high level fixed span bridge in 1994, the Sand Key Bridge carries Gulf Blvd. across Clearwater Pass between Clearwater Beach and the high rise condominium canyon of Sand Key. It is a part of CR 183, which is the Pinellas County maintained portion of Gulf Blvd.
The original drawbridge was owned and maintained by the City of Clearwater. The replacement bridge was built by and is owned by the Florida DOT; however, maintenance responsibility of the Sand Key Bridge remains with the City of Clearwater.
For those that live in the immediate area of Sand Key and Clearwater Beach, the drawbridge that used to connect the two communities was wrought with plenty of defects. Sometimes the drawbridge would malfunction creating traffic backups for hours and the water bottom beneath the pilings would shift to the point that the underwater pilings were exposed. In June 1987 a portion of the low-level drawbridge sunk to the point that the bridge had to be closed for a while; after the repairs were made weight restrictions were imposed.
Since the Sand Key Bridge is an important link to Clearwater Beach and to mainland Clearwater via the Clearwater Memorial Causeway, any closure for Sand Key residents means having to take Gulf Blvd. south to the Belleair Causeway and then east to where one needed to go (for downtown Clearwater including the Pinellas County Courthouse, that meant the use of Clearwater-Largo Road). Talk about having to drive out of your way when an important bridge is closed!
During the Sand Key Bridge's days as a low level drawbridge, it was operated as a toll facility by the City of Clearwater. Once the current high level Sand Key Bridge opened in 1994 and the demolition of the low level drawbridge thereafter the City of Clearwater got out of the drawbridge operation and toll collection business.
Today the Sand Key Bridge, together with the Johns Pass Bridge connecting Madeira Beach with Treasure Island to the south, forms the main thread that weaves together the beaches of Pinellas County which we know today as Gulf Blvd. The Sand Key Bridge rises about 65 feet high and you can see plenty of central Pinellas County vistas including the Gulf of Mexico as well as the skyline of downtown Clearwater as well as Clearwater Beach. And the best part of the Sand Key Bridge? No drawbridge or having to deal with a steel grid deck while you wait (and no Draw Bridge Ahead warning signs)! The Sand Key Bridge serves beach-going motorists, pedestrians as well as boaters alike.