The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 33 - June 15, 2016


Consultant prefers high Cortez Bridge

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


The consultant on the Cortez Bridge replacement project said a
committed transit lane would not cut down traffic congestion
as much as replacing the drawbridge with a fixed-span structure.

CORTEZ – Everybody in the village knows there will be a replacement for the Cortez Bridge someday, they just don't know whether a new one would do them more harm than good.

At the Manatee County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, June 4, the senior project manager for the Cortez Bridge replacement, Tony Sherrard, spoke about the bridge.

Talk turned to ways to alleviate the traffic situation by adding a committed mass transit lane.

Traffic consultant Henry Kay said replacing the drawbridge with a tall, fixed span is the only way to effectively reduce traffic jams on Anna Maria Island. He said not enough people would take mass transit, even with a committed lane, to make a difference.

"Travel time would be affected most by using a fixed span," he said.

The Cortez Bridge is the shorter of the two bridges to the mainland and it goes though the historic village of Cortez with access to all the businesses located there. For the past 24 years or more, there has been talk of replacing the drawbridge, and the popular conclusion was that it would be a low or medium height drawbridge. Back then, when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) talked about a fixed span for Cortez, there was a gentleman's agreement that they could replace the Anna Maria Island drawbridge with a fixed span, but not the Cortez Bridge, citing the lack of space to get the bridge from the mainland to the Island with a high span. Many feel the bridge would have to be lengthened to get to a 65-foot vertical clearance, and that might mean the bridge would not be as accessible from Cortez Village. There is also concern that it might require the demolition of some homes or businesses in the historic district or run through what is now private property on the Island.

That didn't sit well with County Commissioner, Carol Whitmore, a former mayor of Holmes Beach, who supports the high AMI Bridge concept.

"We had a handshake agreement to build the high bridge at the Anna Maria Island Bridge, but not the Cortez Bridge," she said. "I'm going to honor that handshake agreement and say I can't back a high bridge for Cortez."

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