Bridge opening times modified
With little of the fanfare of last year, the U.S. Coast Guard on Jan. 15 instituted its winter schedule for timed openings for the Cortez and Anna Maria Island bridges.
The bridges will be raised on the half-hour on demand during daylight hours from Jan. 15 to May 15, rather than the 20-minute intervals during the other eight months of the year. The bridges open on demand at any time for boating emergencies such as inclement weather.
The Longboat Pass Bridge continues to be raised on demand, just as it is during the off-season.
The USCG implimented the new schedule last February following nearly five years of effort by the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials to get the on-demand opening times changed. The BIEO had long believed that during the winter tourist season the 20-minute intervals contributed significantly to traffic congestion on Manatee Avenue and at the Cortez Road-Gulf Drive intersection in Bradenton Beach.
BIEO officials, particularly Longboat Key Mayor Jeremy Whatmough, had contended that the 20-minute period between openings was not long enough to clear traffic during the winter season, particularly northbound traffic on Gulf Drive heading to the Cortez Road intersection.
Following a study by the Florida Department of Transportation that corroborated this belief, the Coast Guard instituted the new bridge-opening rules on Feb. 22, 2007.
U.S. Coast Guard bridge specialist Michael Lieberum said that based on information received from the DOT and contractor Quinn Construction Co. Inc., he does not anticipate that the DOT renovation project planned to begin Feb. 4 will interfere with the bridge opening schedule, whether in-season or off-season.
Bridge closure for vehicles, not for boats
U.S. Coast Guard bridge specialist Michael Lieberum said that even though the Anna Maria Island Bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic for 45 days beginning Sept. 29, boat traffic, although limited, will be allowed to pass through the draw.
Lieberum said that during the renovations, the Coast Guard “anticipates” that the drawbridge will “be opening once an hour during the day if a vessel is waiting, and will be closed each evening” during this period.
Additionally, said Lieberum, Quinn Construction has stated that it might need “two additional vessel traffic restrictions” prior to Sept. 29, but the company has not yet submitted the dates and times for those restrictions.