Gulf Drive project scaled back
The Florida Department of Transportation removed a number of elements in a federally funded Gulf Drive project to eliminate potential delays.
The downsizing of the project scope, but not the estimated $800,000 cost, led the ScenicWAVES advisory committee, which met June 8, to object.
Earlier this year, when cities scrambled to propose shovel-ready projects for federal stimulus funds for transportation enhancements, Bradenton Beach pitched a Gulf Drive/State Road 789 project that had been shelved for years for lack of money. The project, proposed at about $700,000, went to the top of a priorities list for the area.
The project then involved improvements along Gulf Drive in the business corridor that stretches from the north end of Cortez Beach to Cortez Road. Plans sent to the DOT showed new sidewalks and added crosswalks on Gulf Drive and across side streets, new and relocated landscaping, improved and decorative street lights and improved beach access points.
City project/program manager Lisa Marie Phillips informed the ScenicWAVES group, “Basically what we are getting is some sidewalks and plants.… And it is going to cost $830,000 to do.”
“They took out the lighting, improvements at Third Street, where we had a shower. They took out anything that seemed to snag permitting. They took a lot of it out,” Phillips said.
She said the project, as it currently is proposed, could be completed for $400,000.
“We can’t just waste money,” replied committee member and restaurant owner Ed Chiles.
He motioned that the committee remove its endorsement of the project until it gets clarification from the DOT on the scope of the work and the actual cost.
“Do we want to stand up on our hind legs here and say, as the ScenicWAVES, we have a real objection to the way this stimulus money is being spent?” Chiles asked.
The committee unanimously supported his motion.
In other business, ScenicWAVES members discussed an audit of the city’s historic properties, which is being conducted by resident-businessperson Tjet Martin and Sissy Quinn, a member of the committee and the president of the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust.
“On Bridge Street alone you have 11 properties that qualify to be on the Florida Master Site File,” Quinn said. Properties older than 50 years can be listed in the file.
The trust is selling plaques, as is the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, for placement on historic Island structures.
Phillips suggested ScenicWAVES consider sponsoring the purchase of trust plaques, especially for properties along the scenic highway corridor. Such an effort, as well as the creation of a historic walking-tour brochure, might be funded with grant money.
Also during the meeting, Chiles said a plan to create a shuttle to bring employees from parking at Coquina Beach to the city’s commercial district is moving forward.
“It’s a huge win for this business district,” said Chiles, adding that he thought the project should involve a mix of private and public funding.
ScenicWAVES will not meet in July.