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Date of Issue: December 20, 2007

Emergency signs still in 'test' mode

Four electronic message signs installed for Anna Maria Island will remain in “test” mode until two other signs are replaced.

Six “Advanced Traveler Information Signs” went up earlier this year, but two of the signs, on arms reaching over roadways, came down in mid-November. One sign, positioned near the intersection of Gulf Drive and East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach, fell to the ground when its support beam snapped. There were no injuries in the incident. However, another sign, located on Gulf Drive near Coquina Beach, was removed as a precaution.

And until the problem with those two signs is corrected by the contractor, the four smaller pole signs will remain off-line, according to Manatee County project manager Vincent Canna. Those signs are located at Manatee Avenue near Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach and in Bradenton at 75th Street south of Cortez Road, on Cortez Road east of 75th Street and on Manatee Avenue east of 75th Street.

“It’s a complete system,” Canna said. “But we have not accepted it and we won’t until all six signs are done.”

The project, in other words, “is still in limbo,” Canna said, adding that the carrot left dangling before the contractor is payment. The stick might be a daily fine.

The county hired Traffic Control Devices Inc. of Altamonte Springs to design and build the signs. A spokesperson with the company declined to comment last week.

The price tag on the project exceeds $800,000, with the county and the Florida Department of Transportation sharing the expense.

Island, county and DOT officials said they still hope the signs will be active in time for the 2008 hurricane season and major rehab work on the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The signs will contain pre-programmed messages for storm-related information, including evacuation notices, as well as traffic and parking messages.

The sign project has been in the works for more than a decade and the arrival of the signs was long awaited by Islanders and those traveling to the Island.

“I know the big importance is to provide emergency information,” said beachgoer Iris Holt. “But I just think it’s going to be invaluable in letting people on the mainland know what kind of beach traffic they’re going to encounter. You know, so we can stop and get some water for the wait.”