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Date of Issue: February 13, 2008

Slow start for bridge renovation project

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Helen Romeike-Wisniewski's one-woman show, "Into and Out of the Maze," opens at Anna Maria Island Art League on Feb. 8. The show will feature this painting. Islander Photo: Joyce Karp

Islanders expecting to see a convoy of construction equipment along with some marine construction barges as the $9.2 million Anna Maria Island Bridge renovation project officially got under way Feb. 4 were a bit disappointed.

Only a few signs were placed at the east end of the bridge and Florida Department of Transportation work crews fenced off an area near the east end on the north side where equipment will be stored when not in use.

Other than that, there was little evidence to indicate that the little project that caused such a big uproar had begun.

Not to worry, said DOT spokesperson Audrey Clarke.

The first two weeks of the planned 400-day project are just a mobilization period for contractor Quinn Construction Co. Inc. of Palmetto. Quinn is expected to soon close the bridge sidewalk on the north side. The south sidewalk will remain open to fishers and pedestrians for the time being. Also, Quinn will begin the installation of a temporary hydraulic system to raise and lower the bridge while the main system is under repair.

According to the DOT’s Web site for the project - www.amibridgerehab.com - there is no set date between March and September for any of the planned work that will be done prior to Sept. 29. That’s the date the bridge will actually be closed to vehicular traffic for a 45-day period while the major repairs are done.

Activities planned for the March-September period are the installation of traffic control devices, replacement of timber on the bridge’s fender system, repair of the concrete spall, removal and replacement of the sidewalks, restoration of the embankments at both bridge approaches and installation of a sidewalk west of the bridge on the north side of the road.

Clarke said the DOT will try to keep the Web site updated about actual dates that any portions of the project will begin.

The bridge is scheduled to reopen for vehicular traffic on Nov. 13. That’s Thursday, Nov. 13, not Friday the 13th.