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Cortez Bridge meeting scheduled

CORTEZ – The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will host a public information meeting for the pending Cortez Road bridge replacement project.

FDOT’s in-person presentation is scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 31 from 6-8 p.m. in the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church’s Pfrangle Hall at 6101 Cortez Road in Bradenton.

The in-person meeting will be an open house-style event that allows attendees to review the bridge project materials at their own pace. Attendees can pose questions and comments to attending project team members but no formal presentation will be given.

FDOT will provide online access to the public meeting materials that address design details and aesthetics, construction phasing and traffic maintenance associated with its plans to replace the existing drawbridge, built in 1956, with a fixed-span bridge that at its highest point will provide 65 feet of vertical clearance for vessels passing below it. The informational meeting is not advertised as a continuation of the fixed-span vs. drawbridge debate that continues to be a source of opposition for some residents and elected officials.

Cortez Bridge meeting scheduled
The existing Cortez Bridge drawbridge was built in 1956. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

“The same information will be presented at both the live in-person venue and online at the project website so attending both is not needed,” according to the recent meeting-related newsletter distributed by FDOT.

On Tuesday. Jan. 24, the online meeting materials will be posted at the FDOT District One road projects website.

Comments or questions may be submitted during the public meeting, at the project website or to FDOT Project Manager Ryan Weeks by phone at 863-519-2837, by email at Ryan.Weeks@dot.state.fl.us, or by regular mail addressed to Ryan Weeks, Florida Department of Transportation, P.O. Box 1249, Bartow, Florida 33831.

“While comments about the project are accepted at any time, please submit your comments by Feb. 10 to be included in the meeting summary,” the FDOT newsletter says.

According to the road projects website, “The project includes the bridge and roadway approaches from SR 789/Gulf Drive (in Bradenton Beach) to 123rd Street West (in Cortez), a distance of about 0.9 miles.”

The website notes FDOT previously formed a Bridge Aesthetics Committee (BAC) consisting of community representatives from Cortez and Bradenton Beach to provide input on the bridge’s aesthetics. The committee members include Joe Adorna, Mike Bazzy, Karen Bell, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, David Galuska, Connie Morrow, Ann Marie Nicholas, Joe Rogers, Jeff Vey, Gloria Weir and Bobby Woodsen.

Several BAC meetings and additional small group meetings occurred between August 2020 and November 2021 and future meetings will be added as more information becomes available.

Cortez Bridge meeting scheduled

The fixed-span bridge will include a buffered pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists. – FDOT | SubmittedAccording to the website, “To date, the BAC has determined the following, may be altered in the final design:

  • “Preference is for aesthetically enhanced multi-column pier with a waterline footing. The exterior face of the column would be in line with the exterior face of the bridge deck. Cheekwalls would extend from the top of the pier to the underside of the deck at all pier locations.
  • “Preference is for four overlooks, located on the north and south side of the bridge at the two piers on either side of the main channel.
  • “Preference for substructure lighting on the exterior faces of the pier columns.
  • “A custom ‘wave’ infill pattern is suggested for the bridge pedestrian railings.”

FDOT’s roads projects website also includes a link to a project-specific website.

According to the Cortez Bridge website, “The design phase of Cortez Bridge began in October 2019 and is anticipated to be completed in spring 2025. Right-of-way is funded in fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024. Construction is funded in fiscal year 2025.”

According to the project-specific website, “The need for the project was based on the functional obsolescence and structural condition of the existing bridge. Due to the naturally corrosive saltwater environment, the bridge continues to deteriorate and will need additional repairs in the future. The condition of the bridge is anticipated to deteriorate further as the structure has exceeded its 50-year service life. Replacement of the bridge will address the condition of the structure and reinforce the connection between Anna Maria Island and the mainland of Manatee County.”

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