DOT presents bridge closure options to Islanders
|The view of the town meeting crowd from the stage, where Florida Department of Transportation officials shared a table.|
|Jim Kissick, getting some technical instruction from Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, is the first from the public to step up to the microphone during the Oct. 29 town meeting on the Anna Maria Island Bridge rehabilitation. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff|
What a difference a week makes.
Just seven days ago, the Florida Department of Transportation was adamant that
the planned 75-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge - part of
its $9.1 million renovation project - would take place as planned in
But following an outrcy of public opinion against the mid-April closure,
not to mention some political pressure from elected
officials and safety concerns from fire and emergency service officials,
the DOT came Monday to a town meeting at St. Bernard Catholic Church
in Holmes Beach with an apology, options and outreach to the community
for public comment.
The meeting was headed by the three Island
mayors and they were joined on stage in the Welsmiller
Activity Center at the church by some DOT officials.
Mostly the estimated 450 people heard from Deborah
Hunt, director of operations for the DOT's Bartow office. She outlined
the project and asked those in attendance to e-mail their preference
from three offered alternatives to the 75-day closure by Nov. 5 in time
for the DOT to review the choices and take that information to the Manatee
Board of County Commissioners meeting Nov. 6.
One option - DOT
Scenario A - would be a full bridge closure in October
and November with a full closure of 45 days. There would amount to a nominal
increase in cost over the original 75-day closure that the DOT would bear, but
Hunt said the contractor, Quinn Construction of Palmetto, said it could reduce
the closing time to 45 days if weather didn't interfere. In addition, Hunt said
the DOT would give Quinn a "bonus" of $10,000 per day for each day
it brought the project in before the 45-day time limit.
Hunt said that the DOT
would halt the work and reopen the bridge for Thanksgiving,
The closure is necessary, Hunt said, to do repairs and replace mechanics
and electrical components of the bascule.
West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Andy Price
and Mark Edenfield of Manatee County Public Safety
preferred this option because it offers the quickest solution to get
the bridge open full-time for two-lane traffic. Price did note that when
the bridge is closed, it will take an additional 19 to 35 minutes to
get a mainland fire truck or emergency vehicle from WMFR's west Manatee
station on 66th Street to the north end of Anna Maria Island.
In a second option, Scenario B, the bridge
would close for 105 days, but one lane would be open
by "flagging" traffic - stopping
traffic to allow cars to pass in the open lane. Hunt said the concern for this
option is that the contractor would still need a 15-day full closure, three three-hour
daytime closings and multiple 30-minute closures.
The last option, Scenario C,
would also be for 105 days with only one lane open
in one direction (either east or west, depending upon the public's choice).
No closure is planned now for April and that was the
biggest complaint last week from Island businesses - that the work would interfere with the Island's
tourist season, which lasts through April.
Businessman Ed Chiles, who owns the
Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista restaurants, praised
the DOT for coming up with "options" when last week they wouldn't
consider changing the plan for a mid-April closure. Chiles said that, while he
prefers a new bridge, the October-November option would work best for his and
other small businesses on the Island. That will have the least impact on Island
tourism, he said.
Chiles praised the DOT for listening to concerns from Islanders.
they are trying to do what's right. We've seen movement and I thank the DOT," he
County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, whose district
includes the Island, was amazed at how the DOT reacted
"What a difference seven days can make," she exclaimed.
She said the
Island can survive a 45-day closure as she and her
husband's business, Surfing World West on Cortez Road, had to make it
through a 57-day closure several years ago when the Cortez Bridge was
closed for repairs.
Many speakers, however,
were more interested in a new bridge and gave Hunt
a round of applause when she said the DOT has already begun assembling
the team that would begin the study for a new bridge. She esimated it
will take between five to seven years to get all the studies, design
and engineering completed and before construction could begin. There's
also the problem of funding, considering that the DOT's budget statewide
has been cut by about $1 billion.
of applause went to a speaker who said the Island pays
enough of its share of taxes to merit a new bridge.
Other speakers offered their opinions
for Plan D, a new bridge ASAP, a ferry between Kingfish
Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach and Perico Island, a temporary pontoon bridge,
a governor’s declared state
of emergency, hiring additional contractors and requiring the repairs to be effected
24/7, and both a high bridge and a low bascule replacement were touted.
The meeting ended with applause for the three
Island mayors, John Chappie of Bradenton Beach, Rich
Bohnenberger of Holmes Beach and Fran Barford of Anna Maria, for moving
rapidly to organize a meeting with the DOT, then a public meeting on
the issue and all in less than two weeks. Longboat Key Mayor Jeremy Whatmough
was seated with the Island mayors.
Hunt concluded by reminding the public to
e-mail their preferences for Scenario A, B or C to
firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 5.
Time is of the essence.