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Date of Issue: January 23, 2008

Cortez Bridge time adjustment offered to Coast Guard

Island officials have offered their thoughts to deal with anticipated traffic congestion during the pending closure to vehicular traffic of the Anna Maria Island Bridge for an estimated 45 days next fall.

Members of the Island Transportation Planning Organization last week agreed to request that the U.S. Coast Guard restrict openings of the drawbridge on the Cortez Bridge during peak vehicular traffic hours to ease the potential traffic jams on the Island and mainland. ITPO members are mayors of the Island cities and then rotate membership to the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, with Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce currently serving on the MPO board.

The Coast Guard’s bridge management specialist Michael Lieberum is planning to have the Cortez Bridge closed to boat traffic between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., open on the half-hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., close to boaters from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., then open on demand for boaters from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford, a member of the ITPO, questioned if the hours of bridge closure for boats addresses the school bus schedules to and from the Island.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale agreed, stating his concern was dealing with getting the buses on and off the Island as well as workers going to and from Longboat Key, especially in the afternoon.

ITPO members agreed that the schedule proposed was good, but suggested that the Manatee County School Board be contacted and presented with the schedule for its review.

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