BRADENTON BEACH – Less than a week after it was made, the Florida Department of Transportation has rejected a request to move the 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge up by a month.
That was the word from Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Mike Howe at the Island Transportation Planning Organization meeting Monday afternoon.
Howe made a call to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District One Director Stan Cann just before the meeting for an update and got it. FDOT public information officer Cindy Clemmons-Adente said they could not move the date because there were too many variables.
Following the meeting, the public information officer for the $9.1 million bridge rehabilitation project, Audrey Clarke, said that the main reason for the rejection came from the U.S. Coast Guard. The Guard changed the Cortez Bridge opening times to accommodate the expected increase in automobile traffic caused by the closure of the AMI Bridge for 45 days.
Barry Dragon, Chief of Bridge Operations for the Coast Guard, said they had received no official request, but if they had, it would have taken a minimum of 120 days to change the rules again.
Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce, who was at the ITPO meeting, said he agreed with the decision not to change the closure, saying it’s a big, involved project.
"When you have a project with a lot of vendors, when one of them gets backed up, it backs everybody else up," he said. "In the end, it raises costs and that’s what would happen if they changed the dates of this project."
Pierce said that the people have known what the closure dates were since last December.
"Four hundred people agreed on the timing at meetings held by FDOT back then," he said. "To get 35 or 40 people to say they want to change it now isn’t enough."
Business owners and interested parties attended a meeting last Thursday to discuss moving the start of the closure from Sept. 28 to around Sept. 1. Many of them felt that the slowest part of the business cycle starts earlier than Sept. 28 and that business starts to pick up after the middle of October.
Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said she agreed with the FDOT decision.
"It’s a little late in the game and they should have gone through the elected officials before bringing the proposal to the people," she said. "FDOT did the right thing and it’s time to move on."
Hurricane Hank’s owner Paul Hoffman and his wife, Margaret, attended the meeting last Thursday. He said Tuesday that if they can’t do it at this late date, maybe it’s better.
"It’s probably the best thing to do," he said of the FDOT decision. "It might mess up the scheduling and delay getting the project done."