Cortez Bridge slated for construction in 2025-26

Cortez Bridge slated for construction in 2026-27
In 2018, FDOT provided this illustration that details what the new Cortez Bridge will look like on the Bradenton Beach side. - FDOT | Submitted

Updated Feb. 5, 2021 at 5:21 p.m. – CORTEZ – Construction on a new, 65-foot-tall fixed span Cortez Bridge is now expected to begin during the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) 2026-27 fiscal year.

FDOT’s fiscal year 2026-27 begins on July 1, 2025 and ends on June 30, 2026.

During the Jan. 21 Bradenton Beach Commission meeting, Mayor John Chappie said that at the previous day’s Island Transportation Planning Organization (ITPO) meeting, an FDOT representative informed ITPO members that FDOT was able to include the Cortez Bridge construction project in its five-year work program.

“That kind of surprised me,” Chappie told the city commission. “I’m going to look further into that because it kind of surprised us. I didn’t think it would happen for another 10 years.”

When contacted by The Sun this week, FDOT spokesperson Brian Rick confirmed Chappie’s statement in an email.

FDOT plans to submit its Phase II bridge construction design plans later this year, in or around August, according to Rick.

Construction should begin in fiscal year 2026, Rick wrote in an email on Tuesday, adding that funding is expected to be available at that time.

Cortez Bridge slated for construction in 2026-27
In 2018, FDOT provided this illustration that shows what the new Cortez Bridge will look like in the center, and near the Cortez side of the bridge. – FDOT | Submitted

The original anticipated bridge replacement project cost was $66.5 million.

“As a caveat, $66.5 million is the present-day cost, but with inflation, it will be $76 million by 2026,” according to Rick’s email.

Cortez Bridge slated for construction in 2026-27
Barring a change in plans, the existing 35-foot-tall drawbridge will be replaced by a 65-foot-tall fixed span bridge. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

FDOT continues to move forward with its bridge replacement plans despite continued public and legal opposition from a group that includes former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, former Manatee County Commissioner and Cortez resident Jane von Hahmann, Cortez residents Linda Molto and Joe Kane, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, the Cortez Historical Society and ManaSota-88.

These and other opponents of the 65-foot-tall fixed-span bridge have repeatedly expressed support for a new 35-foot-tall drawbridge to replace the existing drawbridge instead.

On April 23, 2018, FDOT issued a press release regarding its then-recent bridge design decision.

“A fixed bridge is resoundingly the best financial investment for taxpayers. The initial construction cost, including design and construction, saves approximately $23.9 million compared to a new mid-level drawbridge. Over the 75-year life of the bridge, the fixed bridge also saves approximately $11.2 million in operating and maintenance costs compared to the drawbridge,” according to the FDOT press release.