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History - The Three Hathaway Bridges


The first Hathaway Bridge was originally known as the St. Andrews Bay Bridge. It was later named for Franz Hathaway, chairman of Florida's State Road Department, the agency that would eventually become the Florida Department of Transportation.

The St. Andrews Bay Bridge was remarkable for its time, because its approaches used a large number of Parker through-truss spans -- 16 in total -- that were 160 to 225 feet in length and 31 to 38 feet high with a 20-foot wide roadway. (By contrast, each of the eight lanes on the new Hathaway Bridge will be 12 feet wide). The bridge also featured a 200-foot long Warren through-truss "swing span" that would open for shipping traffic by pivoting on a center pier.

The approach spans of the original bridge were left in place until the mid 1980's. The original concrete piers were finally removed in the mid 1990's.


By the end of the Eisenhower years, the original Hathaway Bridge was functionally obsolete and structurally deficient. The second Hathaway Bridge, which opened to traffic in 1960, was more than three times wider than its predecessor and carried double the number of lanes on a 62-foot wide bridge deck.

The 1950's were an age of practicality and economy in road and bridge design. Like other bridges of its time, Hathaway II was a utilitarian structure with narrow shoulders and no auxiliary lanes. An accident or a single stalled vehicle could bring traffic to a standstill -- as happens today on many other bridges and urban freeways built during the era.

By the late 1980's, the second Hathaway Bridge was becoming obsolete. But of course, no one in 1960 could have known just how much Florida would grow and change in the years to follow.


By the late 1990's, it became apparent that transportation enhancements like trolleys and ferry boats would not solve the transportation ills of the Panama City area. Proposals to attach a bicycle and pedestrian structure to Hathaway II were dropped when the estimated price tag went from $3 million to $8 million dollars.

In 1997, the Bay County Bridge Authority, the Panama City Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Bay County Tourist Development Council all voted to support the construction of a new bridge.

The third Hathaway Bridge came to life in 1999, when the Florida State legislature approved an appropriation of more than $80 million dollars for construction. The Florida Department of Transportation announced that it would replace the Hathaway Bridge with two new bridges in the same location.

No local tax dollars will be used for the project, no bond issues will be initiated and the new bridge will not be a toll structure. Both spans of the new bridge are scheduled to be open to traffic with three lanes in both directions by Fall 2003.

© 2003 Florida Department of Transportation

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