Belleair Causeway, Belleair Beach-Belleair Bluffs
Originally constructed in 1950 and reconstructed as a high level fixed span bridge in 2009, the Belleair Causeway carries CR 416 (also known as West Bay Drive) from Gulf Blvd. in Belleair Beach to Largo at the intersection of Seminole Blvd. and Missouri Avenue, also known as US Alt. 19. East of US Alt. 19 CR 416 transitions from Pinellas County to Florida DOT responsibility as FL 686, which is more known as East Bay Drive to US 19 and Roosevelt Blvd. all the way to its eastern terminus at 4 St N and Gandy Blvd. in northeast St. Petersburg. As the Belleair Causeway carries CR 416 it was one of three drawbridges owned by Pinellas County until the replacement Belleair Causeway was built. (Today Pinellas County owns two drawbridges, the Dunedin Causeway Bridge in Dunedin and the Beckett Bridge in Tarpon Springs.)
In the Belleair Causeway's earlier heydays a toll was collected. However, what makes the Belleair Causeway so unique was that the toll plaza was erected right on the bridge itself on the section east of the movable span rather than on land. Many years later the tolls were removed.
Increased traffic plus growth in the area have taken a toll on the Belleair Causeway, so much that weight restrictions were placed on the original 1950 span. In 2007 work on a replacement Belleair Causeway featuring a high level fixed span bridge was started and the bridge was opened in 2009. The new high level fixed span Belleair Causeway today looks similar to the high level fixed span bridges at the Sand Key Bridge as well as the Clearwater Memorial Causeway.
Now that the new bridge is completed, motorists now enjoy an uninterrupted route to Belleair Beach without having to wait for the predecessor drawbridge which was known for mechanical breakdowns among other things. Not only that, a new boat ramp was built on the east end of the Belleair Causeway where the current boat ramp is now located. Moreover, the new Belleair Causeway will help facilitate hurricane evacuations if in the event the beaches need to be evacuated due to a hurricane emergency. Construction sometimes means inconveniences but in the end the benefits can be enjoyed.
On the morning of Friday, 29 May 2009, the Belleair Causeway Bridge was liberated from the kingdom of the Draw Bridge Ahead warning sign when workers shifted traffic from the old low level drawbridge to the new high rise fixed span bridge. The opening of the new high rise Belleair Causeway Bridge signaled the end of a 50+ year era of the low level drawbridge and its inconveniences to motorists when the bridge is up, not to mention the weight limits and sometimes periodic closures and the money Pinellas County has spent for upkeep. The opening also signaled the beginning of a new era of the Belleair Causeway Bridge of which its high rise design and architecture will stand well into the 21st Century.
The newly renovated Belleair Causeway Bridge is more than just a bridge carrying traffic on West Bay Drive to Belleair Beach as well as the rest of the communities of the Gulf Beaches. In addition to the two lanes for motor vehicles, the bridge consists of sidewalks on either side separated by a Jersey barrier for motorist and pedestrian safety and dedicated bicycle lanes for the bicyclists that regularly use the bridge. Moreover, a new boat ramp which replaced an older boat ramp facility has been constructed on the east end of the high rise bridge.
On 1 January 2010 the new Belleair Causeway Bridge along with the new boat ramp was opened to pedestrians, bicyclists and boaters. While the Belleair Causeway was open during construction to vehicular traffic it was closed to pedestrians for safety reasons. The new boat ramp has been completely renovated and it features a little mini-park underneath the bridge; as with all Pinellas County Parks Department owned and operated boat ramps it requires a fee to be paid at an on site automated pay station.