No answer yet on Cortez Bridge

Cortez bridge looking east
The Cortez Bridge will be replaced by either a 35-foot drawbridge or a 65-foot fixed-span. - Cindy Lane | Sun

CORTEZ – Residents of this historic fishing village will have to wait a bit longer to find out what the future holds for the replacement of the Cortez Bridge. One thing certain is the drawbridge that has stood since the mid-1950s will be replaced with either a 35-foot drawbridge or a 65-foot fixed-span.

Following a two-year Project Development and Environment study hosted by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), both proposals have supporters and detractors. While the fixed span could eliminate traffic jams when the drawbridge opens for boaters, many Cortez Village residents say the tall bridge would be out of scale with their historic cottages. Business owners along Cortez Road West voiced fears of losing their access to customers who would be whizzing by, trying to keep up with the traffic.

FDOT Information Specialist Robin Stublen said Hurricane Irma delayed their decision-making process.

“Because of the hurricane, we extended our deadline for submitting comments from Sept. 12 to Sept. 30,” he said. “Now we’re tabulating the input and factoring that information into the equation. We won’t have a decision until after Thanksgiving.”

Once the decision is made, the next step will be for FDOT officials to secure money for engineering and construction. That is something they could not do without knowing what they are building. They estimated the drawbridge option would cost $104 million, while the fixed-span bridge would cost about $72 million. The difference in cost is due to the moveable bascule on the drawbridge.