The days for the current Longboat Pass Bridge may be numbered, but the bridge’s number isn’t up quite yet.
During the October Island Transportation Planning Organization meeting, representatives from the Sarasota Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Florida Department of Transportation gave an update on the planned repairs for the existing drawbridge. Repairs are planned to begin May 1, 2019, but FDOT representative Jim Jacobsen said there would be limited disruption to vehicular traffic during construction.
Jacobsen said the bridge, built in 1957, is functionally obsolete, having served past it’s expected 50-year lifespan by 11 years. The bridge is rated by FDOT as fair, and the project development and environment study to determine if it should ultimately be repaired or replaced will begin in 2020. In the meantime, major repairs estimated at $3.7 million will begin in mid-2019. Jacobsen said the contractor has been given a $160,000 incentive to finish the repairs before Thanksgiving 2019.
Repairs will be made to the sidewalks and traffic lanes to cover potholes and cracks, along with repairs to the steel span to combat rust, correct mechanical issues, repair the supporting concrete beams and protect the undersides of the bridge from erosion. One of the primary goals with these repairs is to correct issues caused by exposure to the harsh environmental elements in the pass and seal the bridge to reduce the effects of rust and erosion in the future.
What motorists can expect, Jacobsen said, is to see nighttime lane closures between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. with 15-minute-long temporary bridge closures allowed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. to move equipment. Detours where the bridge will be completely closed to traffic from midnight to 5 a.m. for two nights only, have already been mapped out. Jacobsen said the United States Coast Guard has already approved the bridge closures.
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie requested that FDOT keep Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key police in the loop regarding lane and bridge closures. Jacobsen agreed, adding that the lane closures will be optimized to allow emergency vehicles through the construction area if necessary. He said lane closures are not allowed for Friday and Saturday nights. Prior to the start of construction Jacobsen said an environmental review of the area will be done to ensure that lighting for the project does not adversely affect nesting sea turtles on the beaches.