By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter
Bridges are hot-button topics for bridge-dependent folks on Anna Maria Island.
The Florida Department of Transportation plans a public information meeting on the upcoming $4 million repair project of the Cortez Bridge 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.
A DOT press release said the meeting is to provide area residents with information on how long the project would last and any possible closings of the bridge to vehicular traffic. DOT officials and engineers will be at the meeting to answer questions from the public.
Robin Stublen of the DOT emphasized that this is a repair project to extend the life of the bridge for 10 years while the DOT and the public determine the long-range future of the bridge. The bridge was built in 1954 and has exceeded its life expectancy, but the future of Cortez Bridge “is a separate issue,” Stublen said.
The repair project is scheduled to start April 28 with work preformed 9 p.m.-6 a.m. weekdays. There will be times when traffic is only one lane and a flagging operation will be in place, he added. Additionally, the bascule will be raised on occasion, but never for more than 15 minutes, he said. “We’re not going to divert traffic to Manatee Avenue,” Stublen said.
Any bascule raisings are expected to take place 2-3 a.m., he said. “And we’ve been working with emergency services so they can call the bridge tender to ensure the bascule is lowered if needed.” Stublen said a DOT study of the project determined working at night with occasional 15-minute bascule raisings “is the least amount of inconvenience for those who use the bridge daily.”
The DOT chose the end of the winter-spring visitor season for to start work with the prospect that vehicular traffic will be reduced on the bridge after April. The repairs are not expected to impact boat traffic. The work is expected to last about two months.
The planning, development and engineering study of the future of Cortez Bridge is still being prepared. That study should be ready for public dissemination by the end of 2014, a DOT website said.
For more information on the April 22 meeting, contact Brian Bollas at 727-946-1869 or Stublen at 800-292-3368.