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Date of Issue: February 04, 2009

Design committee for bridge supported, but premature

Regional transportation planners apparently plan to have a premiere design for any replacement of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Former Bradenton Beach Mayor Katie Pierola requested that the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization members create a design team to provide input to the Florida Department of Transportation on the appearance of any new span linking Holmes Beach to Perico Island.

The design team would deal with aesthetics, Pierola said Jan. 26, with the aim to create a signature bridge that would be in keeping with the ambiance of Anna Maria Island.

Exact specifications on the bridge are still to be determined as to height, width and placement.

DOT District 1 secretary Stan Cann said he had no problem with having a design team address the bridge after preliminary work has been completed by the state as to engineering, environmental and other issues.

“We’ve discussed the concept of a design team, and I have no problem with it,” he said. “We want to have input open to everyone, and would like to have a local flair of how the bridge will look.”

Cann said that design teams have been very effective elsewhere in the state.

He added that once DOT staff has addressed the various elements of the vertical and horizontal makeup of the bridge, “then would be the time to discuss the design of the bridge.”

Cann has said that during the first step of a bridge replacement, called the project development and environmental study, public input is sought on the span. All comments from citizens and others are welcomed. The actual design as to how the bridge will look will come toward the end of the process, which is estimated to be about 10 years away.

Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash said he supports the design team approach, but said that effort would probably come later in the process.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore has already begun the search for federal funds to pay for any bridge replacement.

The 51-year-old bridge is in the final stages of a repair effort by the DOT that is expected to extend the life of the bridge by at least a decade. Islanders, once opposed by the majority to any new bridge, have now indicated a willingness to have a new structure to replace the aging bascule — but whether it will be another drawbridge or a fixed-span is yet to be determined.

Former Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Jim Kissick also addressed the bridge issue at last week’s MPO, citing studies that he said prove that lower bridges were safer in high winds that higher spans.

Cann said that the DOT will be conducting modeling tests to determine effects of bridge height in various wind speeds and that those figures will be factored in future bridge planning.

In other business, the MPO narrowly rejected a move to expand its membership by increasing representation from North Port and Bradenton.

North Port Commissioner David Garofalo had requested additional membership based on the city’s burgeoning population.

The MPO is comprised of 15 voting members. Three are members of the Sarasota and Manatee county commissions respectively; one collectively represents the cities of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach; one each represents Venice, North Port, Longboat Key, Bradenton and Palmetto; one member is from the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority; and two members are city of Sarasota commissioners.

Sarasota got two seats on the board because, when the MPO was formed in 1982, it “was substantially the largest city in the two-county area,” Howe said in a report to the board. He said population estimates have both North Port and Bradenton residents now surpassing Sarasota’s total, hence the request for adding members from those two cities.

But a motion to that effect failed, six to seven.

The next MPO meeting will be at 9 a.m. March 2.