HOLMES BEACH – If the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) were to choose a replacement bridge for the 17-foot-high Anna Maria Island drawbridge, there’s a good chance it would be a lot taller.
Chris Piazza, FDOT engineer in charge of the bridge replacement project, told the meeting of Save Anna Maria (SAM) last Saturday that the majority of the respondents to their recent bridge replacement survey expressed a desire for a tall, fixed-span structure.
As of April 23, 65 percent of the respondents wanted a high bridge, 12 percent wanted a mid-level drawbridge, 9 percent wanted a low-level draw and 3 percent wanted another solution. That prompted Bill Follmer, who had written a letter to the editor recently, to consider replacing the bridge with a tunnel. Piazza said that the tunnel suggestion is on the table for consideration.
Follmer asked FDOT to not limit the people receiving notices about the bridge to Island residents. He said that whatever they do to replace the bridge site would affect the entire county.
"We only need to notify people living within 300 feet of the project," Piazza said. "Sending notices to all of the Island residents was above and beyond what is required.”
Former Bradenton Beach Mayor and SAM co-founder Katie Pierola asked if FDOT would put lights on a replacement bridge like they did the Cortez Bridge when they refurbished it. Piazza said he was unsure and would get back to her on that.
When Former Holmes Beach City Councilwoman and SAM President Billie Martini asked about plans for the Cortez Bridge, Piazza said he had not heard of any plans to replace it, although the state is always evaluating bridges for safety and design.
SAM Secretary Nancy Deal said that people voting for a high fixed-span for the Anna Maria Bridge replacement might have been unaware of a rule regarding the width of the bridge.
"How many of those people voted that way because they thought the new bridge would be four lanes wide," she asked. "They might have voted differently if they knew it would remain two lanes with shoulders."
Deal also asked if the state was considering studies showing taller bridges were closed sooner when storms are approaching. He said they would address it in their next newsletter.
SAM Treasurer Carol Soustek asked if they would include more information about the alternatives and Piazza said they would put that into their next newsletter.
Piazza said that the study of ship heights to see what percentage would fit under a 65-foot high bridge would be extended to a week after the Memorial Day weekend. If that study shows a lot of ships would have problems getting under a fixed-span, they might have to consider a taller bridge.
The meeting ended with some people gaining more questions than answers. The next mail-out news letter will be out in a few weeks.