Gulf Drive bike paths require more cleaning

Bradenton Beach Gulf Drive bike path
The Gulf Drive bike lane near Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach was partially covered with sand and water Saturday afternoon. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – In response to complaints received, Public Works Director Tom Woodard is exploring ways to provide cleaner bike paths along Gulf Drive.

On Friday, Jan. 4, Woodard sent an email to Mayor John Chappie, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Maintenance Program Manager Phil Catalano and others regarding these efforts.

“Currently I have been receiving numerous, almost daily complaint calls from residents and visitors about the state of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach, specifically the bike and turn lanes,” Woodard wrote.

He also noted that he’s been asked why portions of the bike lane along Gulf Drive are often covered with sand and debris.

Woodard’s email said he typically refers these complaints and inquiries directly to FDOT, the agency that controls, maintains and cleans the state-owned road that passes through Bradenton Beach.

“Since no sustained improvement has been achieved, I felt I should reach out to you again. Past complaints were met with immediate resolution, but a consistent SOP (standard operating procedure) is needed or needs to be enforced if one currently exists,” Woodard wrote.

“I know that USA Services is under contract to sweep (Gulf Drive) twice per month, but the Island receives sand and debris from the wind and rain continually. If not already being done, I believe random inspections and site visits by FDOT staff/inspectors during sweeping activities would help correct service shortfalls. The inspector could issue a work request to FDOT Highway Maintenance or road gang service for spot cleaning in between contracted sweeping visits. This has been an ongoing issue for us for years, and I feel that a solution is achievable with a bit more supervision and involvement,” Woodard wrote.

Woodard noted that with Chappie’s approval he recently reached out to Catalano to gauge FDOT’s interest in partnering with the city or hiring the city’s Public Works Department to sweep Gulf Drive and the Gulf Drive bike lanes.

“He expressed interest and said he would set a meeting. We are very eager to discuss the possibilities as soon as possible,” Woodard wrote regarding his communications with Catalano.

“Please be aware that the biggest hurdle to overcome for us will be the appropriation of a street sweeping/vacuum truck. We have the manpower and desire to perform the work but not the equipment,” his email said.

When contacted later, Woodard said the bike lanes between Bridge Street and the Longboat Pass Bridge typically generate the most complaints.

“We’re going to have to get a sweeper. I would like to do it and our guys can do it. We can do our own city streets too and they would be more well-maintained,” Woodard said.

Woodard said the city currently pays USA Services to sweep the city streets once every three months – and during former Mayor Bill Shearon’s administration, the city’s monthly street sweeping was reduced to quarterly as a cost-saving measure.

Woodard said he doesn’t expect USA Services to sweep the state-owned bike lanes and turn lanes every week. He also noted that he has asked the city commission to purchase a street sweeping machine in the past. Woodard estimated a new street sweeper would cost approximately $125,000, and his staff is currently limited to backpack blowers.

“I don’t mind taking it over, but we needed a partnership for the state road,” Woodard said.

He mentioned the possibility of state assistance for the purchase or use of street sweeping equipment in exchange for the city sweeping Gulf Drive and the state’s bike lanes.

“I’m open to any options and suggestions,” Woodard said.