Force main delays impacting Gulf Drive traffic

Bradenton Beach paving delays
The northbound Gulf Drive travel lane near the Cortez Road intersection remains closed and continues to create traffic and safety concerns. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – The paving and reopening of the northbound Gulf Drive travel lane near the intersection with Cortez Road has been delayed due to complications with Manatee County’s force main replacement project.

The water main valves Westra Construction recently installed along Gulf Drive and along Avenue C must be replaced with valves that contain backflow preventers. The replacement of the Gulf Drive valves is required before that section of Gulf Drive can be repaved and reopened.

A portion of the northbound lane between Cortez Road and 12th Street North has been barricaded for several months. As a result, the southbound left turn lane onto Cortez Road is currently serving as the northbound travel lane. This is creating traffic delays and safety concerns.

The force main valves Westra installed along Avenue C as part of the county’s force main project must also be replaced.

In October, Bradenton Beach commissioners authorized a $302,626 contract with Westra to accelerate a separate, city-funded Avenue C drainage improvement project that also includes the restoration of rights of way and driveways disturbed by the county project.

The city project was originally planned to be done by Woodruff & Sons later this year. Westra is now doing both projects at once in order to end the year-long disruptions Avenue C property owners have been subjected to.

On Wednesday, Jan. 3, The Sun contacted Tina Allen, the county’s contracted community outreach specialist. Allen said the repaving of the Gulf Drive travel lane is supposed to begin at some point in January.

Regarding Avenue C, Allen said, “I have been advised that some of the valves for Avenue C did not meet specifications and had to be sent back for replacements. The crew will be replacing the faulty valves and plan to begin restoration of the rights-of-way along Avenue C next week. Provided there are not unforeseen issues, they plan to have that restoration completed by the end of February. The paving of Avenue C will occur once the right-of-way areas are finished.”

Commission concerns

During the Thursday, Jan. 3 City Commission meeting, Commissioner Jake Spooner asked when the Gulf Drive turn lane would be restored.

Mayor John Chappie and Public Works Director Tom Woodard then shared the new information they received.

“I just got a report today. Apparently, they’re going to have to open that ditch line up again. The wrong valves were put on, so it’s going to be another three or four weeks,” Chappie said.

“Westra is claiming the county did not specify back-flows to be part of the valve. Manatee County is saying back-flows are standard spec for those valves, so they’re fighting between the two of them to see who’s going to pay. The valves that were installed are not correct,” Woodard said.

Woodard said the valves are site-specific and located the rights of way at each intersection. Their replacement doesn’t require the entire section of road to be dug up. Woodard was told the Gulf Drive valves extend from Cortez Road to 26th Street North, and the new valves were expected to arrive in about a week.

“I’d give it two weeks. You know how things go,” he said.

Woodard said it was suggested that Westra replace the valves near the Gulf Drive/Cortez Road intersection first.

“If they do that first, then they put the lanes back and the striping back and that would help immensely,” he said.

Commissioner Ralph Cole said the absence of the southbound left turn lane is confusing motorists as they approach the altered intersection from different directions.

“That’s why the police department is very concerned,” Chappie added.

“It’s backing up all the way past the S-turn, almost to Circle K,” Cole said of the congestion created by the missing southbound turn lane.

“It starts affecting businesses around here, and I’ll make sure the county knows about it. That’s not right,” Chappie said.

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