ANNA MARIA — The city pier project got a huge increase in funding Monday as the Metropolitan Planning Organization voted unanimously to approve more than a half-million dollars in additional funding.
The additional funding of $588,999 will be added to the $371,025 that had already been granted for a transportation enhancement grant the city had coming as the result of a grant application written by JoAnn Mattick before she became a city commissioner.
“This is thrilling news,” Mattick said after the vote. “Now we’ll be able to do everything we want to do at the pier.”
Mattick and the transportation committee have been working for more than two years to come up with a design for the project that is supposed to enhance the transportation system in the city’s business district.
The committee determined that the money could best be spent placing a boardwalk along the base of the pier and reconfiguring the parking there so that traffic goes in one driveway and out another.
Benches will be installed along the ADA-accessible boardwalk so that visitors can sit for a while and look out over the bay.
All native plantings will be installed along with a picnic pavilion, which will double as a trolley shelter.
As the planning phase of the project was being completed, committee members realized that their dreams for the area were going to outstrip the original $371,025 grant, so they were resigned to scaling down the scope of the project.
“We thought we’d have to have a shorter boardwalk, and fewer benches, for example,” Mattick said. “Now it looks like we can do the whole thing!”
Mattick has also written a grant for the installation of turtle-friendly lighting along the pier. None of the transportation enhancement grant money can be used to repair the pier, which is in need of about $200,000 worth of work.
“The grant doesn’t cover infrastructure,” Mattick said. “It must be used to enhance the transportation corridor.”
Mattick said the next step for the project would be for the committee to meet with representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation sometime toward the end of January.
FDOT Community Liaison Manon LaVoie has expressed enthusiasm in the past about the Anna Maria project.
“I’ve never seen a city start planning so early and so effectively,” she said earlier. “You guys are really doing this right.”