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Date of Issue: October 25, 2007

AMI Bridge closure draws Island ire

And the bridge debate goes on - and on and on.

Anna Maria Islanders learned last week that the Anna Maria Island Bridge, linking Holmes Beach to Perico Island, would be closed to vehicular traffic for upwards of 75 days next year. The actual date of the total closure is still in limbo, but a preliminary announcement called for the bridge to close post-April 1 and pre-July 4.

The matter was scheduled to come before the Manatee County Commission Tuesday, Oct. 23. A “town hall” meeting hastily called by the Island cities’ mayors - this one with Florida Department of Transportation officials - is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 29.

According to Audrey Clarke, with the engineering firm of Parsons Brinkerhoff, which is handling the rehab design, Quinn Construction out of Palmetto has been awarded the $9.14 million contract. The work will continue for 400 days, with a start date of Jan. 7, 2008.

Clarke said the work will include:

Repair of concrete deck, railing, beams, piers, piles, seawalls and bascule span counterweights, including removal of PCB-contaminated pier concrete.

Resurfacing of deteriorated deck concrete.

Repair of bascule span steel, including strengthening and replacement of numerous main load carrying members, steel deck, sidewalk and railings.

Rebalancing span.

Cleaning and painting steel, including lead abatement.

Renovation of control house.

Reconditioning of drive machinery including, replacement of machinery frame and component, and replacement of span locks.

Replacement of entire electrical power and control systems.

“The estimated remaining service life after rehabilitation is 10 to 15 years,” Clarke added.

The news last week that the rehab will require a 75-day closure caused an uproar on Anna Maria Island, especially as it falls during April, usually “high season” for businesses.

The timing of the closure is being questioned by business owners, who ask why the bridge could not be closed during the evenings when traffic is minimal, or during September and October, when visitors are sparse.

Clarke said that the amount of work required would not allow night work and would extend the length of the project. There are also concerns with hurricane season, which reaches its peak in September and October, she said.

“There is never a perfect time to do it,” she admitted.

Clark added that boaters will have unimpeded access through the channel during the vehicular closure, pursuant to U.S. Coast Guard regulations.