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Date of Issue: January 03, 2008

Bridge work start date still uncertain

Quinn Construction Co. of Palmetto was supposed to start preliminary work on the $9.6 million Anna Maria Island Bridge renovation project this week, but that was under its old contract with the Florida Department of Transportation.

That contract also called for the bridge to be closed for 75 days starting the first week of April, but Quinn and the DOT hammered out a verbal agreement that the bridge closure would take place starting in late September, and only for a 45-day period.

But those negotiations also called for a new contract, something that has yet to completed and signed.

DOT spokesperson Audrey Clarke said the negotiations are “still ongoing” and have been delayed by the holidays.

She does not yet have a new start date, but expects an announcement in the near future, possibly this week.

“We should have something soon,” she predicted.

Without a new contract in place, it’s unlikely that Quinn would begin the first phase of the project, DOT spokesperson Cindy Clemmons-Adente has said previously.

The renovation project is only a stop-gap measure designed to keep the bridge operating within state-mandated safety limits until a new bridge can be constructed and operational.

Efforts to build a new bridge in the mid-1990s failed due to legal difficulties between the DOT and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, along with opposition from a number of local environmental groups

Deborah West, DOT director of operations for the Bartow region, has indicated the renovation project will keep the bridge operational for another 15-20 years, while a new bridge will take a minimum of 7-10 years of planning and permitting before construction could begin.

West has already set in motion the groundwork for the organization of the team that will prepare the feasibility study for a new Anna Maria Island Bridge. At the earliest, construction of a new bridge could not begin before 2014, West has indicated.

And that date is with a maximum effort by all agencies involved along with no funding glitches, no legal or administrative delays and no organized opposition.