The Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a bridge spanning Tampa Bay, Florida, with a cable-stayed main span, and a total length of 21,877 feet (4.1 miles or approximately 6.67 km). It is part of I-275 (SR 93) and US 19 (SR 55), connecting St. Petersburg in Pinellas County and Terra Ceia in Manatee County, Florida, passing through Hillsborough County waters. Construction of the current bridge began in 1982, and the completed bridge was dedicated on February 7, 1987. The new bridge cost $244 million to build, and was opened to traffic on April 20, 1987. It replaced an older bridge constructed in 1954 and partly destroyed in a collision in 1980.
It is constructed of steel and concrete. Steel cables clad in 84 9-inch (229 mm) steel tubes (42 per pylon) along the center line of the bridge support the main span. It was designed by the Figg & Muller Engineering Group (who also designed the popular Seven Mile Bridge), and built by the American Bridge Company.
In 2005, an act of Florida Legislature officially named the current bridge the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge, after the Governor of Florida and then U.S. Senator who presided over its design and most of its construction. According to sources, he was inspired to suggest the current design by a visit to France, where he saw a similar cable-stayed bridge, the Brotonne Bridge. The original bridge was dedicated to state engineer William E. Dean, as noted on a plaque displayed at the rest area at the south end of the bridge.
The Travel Channel rated the Sunshine Skyway #3 in its special on the "Top 10 Bridges" in the World. The bridge is considered the "flag bridge" of Florida.
Because of its height above the emerald-green Gulf waters, length of continuous travel, location in a warm-weather state, and modern architectural design, it is a popular spot for filming automobile commercials.
One of the major problems with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is corrosion of the steel in the precast concrete segmental columns on the high level approaches. Because the segments are hollow, workers were able to enter the bridge superstructure in 2003 and 2004 to reinforce the corroded sections of the bridge, ensuring its future safety. Another problem arose around 2005–2006 when several news bureaus reported paint discolorations on the bridge's cables. These paint splotches and patches were a result of touch-ups that were performed over the years but began to show through over recent years. In 2008, FDOT began an overhaul including repainting the cables in their entirety (instead of touching up) and rehabilitating the lighting system at the summit of the bridge.