Completed in 1987, the Sunshine Skyway is the world's longest cable-stayed concrete bridge. It is probably the best known of the several dozen cable-stayed bridges that have been built in the United States since the late 1970s. Its popularity may be due to its unique color -- its cables are painted a bright taxicab yellow -- but the bridge also boasts an interesting history.
The Sunshine Skyway isn't the first bridge to span the broad mouth of the Tampa Bay. In fact, a four-mile steel cantilever bridge used to live where the new Sunshine Skyway now stands. But during a violent thunderstorm on the morning of May 9, 1980, the freighter Summit Venture plowed into the cantilever bridge. More than 1,000 feet of the bridge fell into the bay, killing 35 motorists and bus passengers instantly.
The Florida Department of Transportation began construction on a safer Sunshine Skyway Bridge only days later. more than 300 precast concrete segments were linked together with high-strength steel cables to form the roadway. Protecting the new bridge from ships was a big priority, so they installed large concrete islands, called dolphins, around each of the bridge's six piers to absorb unwanted impact. Since it opened to traffic in 1987, the sleek, new Sunshine Skyway has won dozens of engineering and design awards.