The City of Treasure Island is located on a barrier island and is joined to the mainland by a Causeway located within the City of Treasure Island starting at Gulf Boulevard and extending into the City of St. Petersburg at Sunset Drive. The Causeway is approximately 1.8 miles long and is comprised of four travel lanes, three bridges and man-made islands including the neighborhoods Paradise Island (Treasure Island), Causeway Isles, and Yacht Club Estates (St. Petersburg). The Causeway has a fixed bridge at the east end located within the City of St. Petersburg, which was built by and is owned and maintained by the City of Treasure Island. The other fixed bridge at the west end of the Causeway is located within the City of Treasure Island and is also owned by the City. There is a bascule bridge located over the Intracoastal Waterway that is owned, maintained, manned, and operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the City of Treasure Island. The Causeway serves as the most direct and fastest evacuation route to the mainland and as the sole means of access for residents of the three Causeway neighborhoods. Access to the remainder of Treasure Island is made possible by two State-owned bridges on the north and south ends of the island at Johns Pass and Blind Pass.
The original Causeway and bridges were completed in 1939. To repay the bonds that funded the construction of the Causeway and its three bridges, a toll system was established. Toll booths were set up just east of the bascule bridge inside the municipal limits of the City of St. Petersburg. Frequent-use passes were sold, while all others paid a per-trip user fee. By the 1990’s, it became increasingly clear that the three bridges were at the end of their useful life and needed to be replaced. Annual inspections resulted in severe weight limits being placed on the bascule bridge. The City engaged Pinellas County and the State asking that they consider taking over the Causeway; however, both entities responded to indicate there was no interest in adding the Causeway to their roadway systems.
After an lengthy process, the City was able to obtain an appropriation from Congress in the amount of $50 million to be put towards the replacement of the bascule bridge. Additionally, the City used its own funds in the amount of $10 million, along with a $5.2 million state TOPS grant, to replace the two fixed bridges on the east and west ends. Replacement of the east and west fixed bridges began in June 2003 and was completed in December 2004.
Replacement of the bascule bridge began in January 2005 and was completed in August 2007. Tolling was terminated by an act of the City Commission in 2006, at the request of Congressman Young, who was instrumental in securing the $50 million in federal funding. At this time, prior to the recession, it was believed that there would be future federal appropriations available to cover major maintenance needs for the bridges, namely for the operation of the bascule bridge, which has to be manned 24/7 to allow boat traffic on the Intracoastal Waterway to flow unimpeded. Further, the City expected to give the eastern portion of the Causeway, lying solely within the City of St. Petersburg, to St. Petersburg.