Does Bridge Street need a redesign?

Bradenton Beach Bridge Street remodel
Bridge Street is currently a two-way street, but there’s talk of possibly changing that. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – Should Bridge Street be turned into a one-way street, be closed completely to vehicular traffic or remain as it is?

That’s a question the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and the city commission want public input on before making any decisions. A public work meeting on the issue is scheduled at city hall on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.

At the request of CRA member and Mayor John Chappie, this preliminary discussion occurred at the Wednesday, Jan. 9 CRA meeting.

“There’s been a lot of talk over the last several years: What do you want to do on Bridge Street? Do you want one-way traffic? Do you want two-way traffic? Do you want parking? Do you not want parking? We need to have some discussion here and in the community. We need to make some decisions,” Chappie said.

CRA chair and City Commissioner Ralph Cole said he’s willing to listen to the pros and cons of all options. CRA member and City Commissioner Jake Spooner said he’s visited other cities where the main street was closed and replaced by stages, splash parks and other public features. He noted those cities also have solid transportation options and adequate parking.

“It might be a little premature closing that street down without having that type of infrastructure already in place. But I think it would be a great thing to work towards,” he said.

Cole invited BridgeWalk resort owner Angela Rodocker to last week’s meeting and offered to contact every other Bridge Street business owner about the upcoming work meeting.

Emily Anne Smith, the CRA’s contracted architectural designer, is charged with creating a CRA district vision plan. She said there are many good options for Bridge Street, but access must be maintained for the mid-block post office.

The options could include a meandering, one-way traffic lane with trees and small park areas to the side. Or the street could be left as is, even though Smith doesn’t think it’s truly functioning as a two-way street.

She also suggested two-car electric trams to transport people from the free public parking south of Bridge Street at Cortez Beach and she supports giving all Bradenton Beach property owners their say at the work meeting.

Public input

Rodocker agrees that public input is critical. She thinks Bridge Street is a great location that could be transformed into a “true destination” – one that would be more pedestrian-friendly if reduced to one lane or no lanes.

“I’ve always envisioned Bridge Street being something different than it is today and I think a lot of people have as well. What we have now, it’s just not right. We’re functioning, but it’s not what it can be and should be,” she said.

She also cautioned against rushing the process due to self-imposed timeframes.

Bradenton Beach Marina president Mike Bazzy agrees with Rodocker and suggested the other Bridge Street business owners would too.

The marina is within walking distance of Bridge Street, but Bazzy said when he drives from the marina to the post office the street is often partially blocked by delivery trucks that he must swerve around, which he feels endangers pedestrians.

“Having two lanes there is probably not the best use,” he said.

CRA member and Anna Maria Oyster Bar president John Horne asked whether Smith needs to create storyboards to illustrate the possible options. Smith said that’s not needed yet, but she’ll provide simple illustrations at the work meeting – either printed on paper or created on a chalkboard in real time.

Chappie stressed the need for discussion, decision making and moving forward with the CRA vision plan: “The money’s there. With the incremental tax dollars we collect, we have an obligation to use those dollars.”

Chappie said no decisions will be made at the work meeting.

Later in the week, Chappie said he’s heard some initial resistance to any plan that increases traffic for residents on and around Bay Drive South.