New details emerge for high-span bridge

Anna Maria bridge mudline
A graphic illustrates how the bottom of the proposed Anna Maria Island Bridge will look with mudline footings for piers below the water to make more room for boaters to navigate underneath the 65-foot vertical clearance bridge. - FDOT | Submitted

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – There’s been a lot of talk from the Florida Department of Transportation about high-level bridges coming to the Island. The first one expected to arrive is the planned 65-foot, fixed-span replacement bridge for the current drawbridge on Manatee Avenue. Despite a lack of available funding, FDOT representatives are still making big plans for the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

FDOT project manager Roxann Lake and Ryan Forrestel, project manager for American Consulting Professionals, appeared before elected officials at the Island Transportation Planning Organization meeting to discuss those plans. They discussed what the new bridge is planned to look like and what may change on the Island when the new bridge is finally built.

“Our job is essentially to get the job done and on the shelf in case funding becomes available,” Forrestel said.

The new bridge is planned to be built about 100 feet south of the current bridge, with bridge approaches in roughly the same place they are now. This allows for the current drawbridge to remain in service while the high, fixed-span bridge is under construction. Once finished, at its highest point the new bridge is planned to have 65-foot vertical clearance to allow boats to pass underneath without the traffic stop of a drawbridge raise.

Two vehicular traffic lanes of 12 feet each are planned, along with a 10-foot shoulder on either side of the bridge. A concrete barrier wall will separate the vehicle lanes from 10-foot pedestrian and bicycle paths on either side of the bridge.

Anna Maria bridge piers
The hammerhead style piers supporting the bridge are planned to be blue with an impression of sea turtles on every fourth pier. – FDOT | Submitted

Forrestel and Lake went over the design choices selected by the bridge aesthetics committee in 2017. The group, made up of local stakeholders including representatives from Keep Manatee Beautiful, the Island cities, Save Anna Maria and Manatee County, met for 10 months between 2016 and their final meeting in April 2017. Choices made by the committee include the selection of hammerhead style piers to support the underside of the bridge cast in blue with a stamped motif of sea turtles on every fourth pier. The underside of the bridge is planned as a natural cement color. A metal railing with a sunshine motif is planned for the outer edges of the bridge.

Anna Maria bridge railing
Pedestrian railings lining the outer sides of the bridge will feature this sunshine motif. Pedestrian walkways are planned to be separated from vehicle lanes by concrete barricades. – FDOT | Submitted

While no lights or landscaping will be placed on the bridge, small pocket parks are planned for each end of the bridge featuring native landscaping and benches for pedestrians to rest. Walkways will wrap around the base of the bridge approaches on each side and feature cement tile walls with motifs of pelicans, sea turtles and manatees separated by tiles of fractured granite to give the area some texture. Railings will separate the walkway from the water.

Landscaping choices for the pocket parks and bridge approaches include sabal palms, silver buttonwoods and royal palms. To help add instant “curb appeal” to the bridge, Forrestel said FDOT planners have chosen a “bold” approach to landscaping where more mature trees will be planted so the effect is more noticeable immediately after plantings.

Anna Maria bridge parks
A pocket park is proposed as a “rest area” for each end of the new bridge. – FDOT | Submitted

Final plans for the bridge are expected to emerge in late 2019.

Forrestel said no right of way acquisitions are needed for the project.

Construction on the bridge, estimated to cost $15 million, is not yet funded.

Anna Maria bridge wall impressions
The aesthetics committee for the Anna Maria Island Bridge chose a mixture of wildlife impressions to recognize the animals that make the area home. These impression panels are planned to wrap around the base of the new bridge on each side underneath the bridge approach. – FDOT | Submitted

Once the fixed-span bridge is built, other changes may be made to the Island side of Manatee Avenue, including changes to parking at Kingfish Boat Ramp.

Forrestel said the bridge project managers are working with Manatee County officials to determine just how parking at the popular boat ramp will be affected and where additional parking spaces can be placed. Currently, the plan is to primarily eliminate parking on the south side of Manatee Avenue and extend the current parking area to the east toward the bridge.

Another change proposed for Kingfish is the elimination of left-hand turns to the east out of the parking area.

With the installation of a roundabout planned for the intersection of Manatee Avenue and East Bay Drive, Forrestel said it would be safer for boaters going east to turn right out of the boat ramp and circle the roundabout to get up adequate speed to go east over the bridge.

Engineer to all three Island cities Lynn Burnett said she hopes the roundabout, which she called “a much-needed improvement,” will be installed before the new bridge is built.

Lake said the Anna Maria Island Bridge project is being presented to FDOT leaders again in fall 2018 for possible funding.

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