Daily routines will change dramatically for many as the Island is left with only one bridge to the mainland for 45 days.
SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD Workers from Tampa Electric Company
prepare to install an underwater natural gas pipeline from
the mainland to the Island. The project must be done before
the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed Sunday night at
midnight or wait until the bridge reopens 45 days later.
HOLMES BEACH – When the barricades go up on Sept. 29 blocking traffic from going onto the Anna Maria Island Bridge, the various service providers will be ready. The question remaining, though, is: Will the rest of us?
Spokespeople, elected officials and department heads outlined their preparedness last Thursday evening at the final public meeting before the bridge closure.
Audrey Clarke, spokesperson for Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB Americas), the general contractor for the $9.1 million rehabilitation project, emceed the meeting, which brought together representatives of most of the agencies and companies that would be affected.
Greg Wilson, PB Americas project administrator, said the bridge would be closed at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, and would remain closed until Nov. 14.
"Barricades will go up at both ends of the bridge," he said. "The variable message signs will display the news that the bridge is closed."
Wilson noted that the left turn extension southbound on Gulf Drive at Cortez Road had been completed last week, well in advance of the closure. That extended lane would hold more cars waiting to use the remaining access to the mainland, the Cortez Bridge. He said that they would make it easier to use the roads involved in the detour.
"We are pleased that the Florida Department of Transportation has dedicated one lane at 75th Street and Cortez Road to right turns," he said. "We will adjust the timing of the stoplights at 75th Street at Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road to handle more traffic onto the Island."
He noted that Bradenton Beach police will have an officer at the Gulf Drive and Cortez Road intersection during rush hour to handle the flow of traffic. He said sailboaters would be asked to make an adjustment.
"During construction, there will be one-leaf openings of the bridge for tall ships," he said. "Sailboaters will be asked to bring their outriggers in as they go through the opening."
Wilson said the Anna Maria Island Bridge would be blocked from pedestrians.
"During this phase, we will be blasting the old concrete on the bridge and removing lead paint , so it won’t be a safe place for people to be," he said.
Ken Spillette, PE, the senior project engineer, also noted that anglers would not be allowed to use the bridge because of the construction hazards present.
Emergency service providers said they would be putting changes in effect that they had come up with months ago after finding out about the closure.
"We will add an additional pumper to Station 1 in Holmes Beach and house one at the old station in Bradenton Beach, at least for a while," said West Manatee Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Brett Pollock.
"We have signed an agreement with Air Med to provide aerial medical assistance as needed," said Manatee County Emergency Services Director Mark Edenfield. "We’re going to get you to the hospital and get you there in a hurry."
"We will operate in a supporting role for the other agencies," said Manatee County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. John Kenney, who is stationed in the city of Anna Maria. "We have equipped our cars with push bars and when a car breaks down on the bridge, we will be able to move it in an expeditious manner."
Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said she thought that the 45 days when the bridge is closed would go swiftly. Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore thanked FDOT for coming up with $30,000 to finance a free bus shuttle to and from the Island during the closure.
Mark Davis, chairman of the board for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, asked people to remember their local business community.
"Shop the Island and enjoy," he said.
Chantelle Lewin, Anna Maria Island Sun Advertising Director and co-founder of Bridging the Gap, told everyone to come out to the Island on the weekends.
"It’s a grassroots project with members of the business community, private individuals and non-profit agencies working together to attract people out to the Island," she said.
Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson had some advice for motorists.
"Follow the flow of traffic and don’t try to take shortcuts," he said. "With the way the stoplights will be timed, traffic will flow."
Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce said he thought the planning that has gone into this closure was fantastic.
"It’s all falling into place," he said. "I noticed that there were almost as many people up front representing agencies involved in this as there were people attending the meeting. That shows how much effort has gone into making this work."