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Date of Issue: February 01, 2007

MCAT reluctant to extend trolley route in Anna Maria

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford told city commissioners at their Jan. 24 meeting that she has talked to the Manatee County Area Transit about extending the route of the Island trolley to include North Bay Boulevard and North Shore Drive.

When the trolley first began operating in March 2002, a stop at the Rod & Reel Pier on North Shore Drive was included, but that location was dropped for lack of passengers.

Barford said several residents living near North Bay Boulevard have inquired about the route extension and she's spoken with MCAT director Ralf Hesseler about extending the route. The problem, said the mayor, is that, according to MCAT, the humpback bridge on North Bay Boulevard can presently support the weight of the trolley, but after several months of use, the bridge would become structurally unsound.

"I do plan to have further talks with Hesseler," Barford said, but at the moment MCAT appears reluctant to extend the trolley route in Anna Maria any farther than its turnaround at the city pier.

She also said it's a bit of a misconception to believe that the city has been blocking any extension of the trolley service.

Richard and Alexis Francis of Jacaranda Street wrote Barford and the city commission on Jan. 26 stating they would "like for the City of Anna Maria to stop blocking the extension of the trolley because of a falsely created impression of 'negative resident concern and narrow streets.'"

Francis said he and his wife live about .8 of a mile from the city pier and utilize the trolley on many occasions.      "It is difficult, especially so in the nine months of hot weather, for seniors or anyone to carry their shopping items .8 of a mile from the trolley drop at the city pier to their homes near Bean Point," said Francis.

"My impression is that only a very few vocal and influential residents near that route have opposed the trolley. I feel that the majority of full-time residents, small motels and the restaurant/fishing pier near the Bean Point area would like to have trolley service closer to their area.

"It is time for Anna Maria to get on board with the rest of the Island and stop blocking the extension of the trolley. I hope the city administration will quit buying into the falsely created impression of 'negative resident concern and narrow streets,'" Francis concluded.

They mayor said the city is not blocking any route extension and has asked MCAT to examine the possibilities of returning a stop at the Rod & Reel Pier to the route system.