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Date of Issue: March 11, 2009

City readies for Gulf Drive project

Bradenton Beach staff and elected officials are giving a last review to a proposal for $700,000 in improvements along Gulf Drive.

The project is the top-ranking proposal in a local request for funding in the federal economic stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Manatee and Sarasota County transportation planners hope to receive a substantial share of stimulus money for shovel-ready projects, including several on the Island. Each county can expect about $7 million in stimulus funds for transportation enhancements, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

Bradenton Beach’s Gulf Drive improvement plan, which has been on the shelf for several years, is considered a top priority for Manatee County. The city had a permit for the project, but no funding.

On March 3, city officials and staff met with engineer Mitch McKnight of Wilson Miller to discuss the plan. Another review was scheduled to take place during a ScenicWAVES committee meeting at city hall March 9, after The Islander’s deadline.

“We’ll show it to the rest of the crew, but we’ve already got a lot of checkmarks done,” Mayor Michael Pierce said, eager to move the project along.

The project involves improvements along Gulf Drive in the business corridor that stretches from the north end of Cortez Beach to Cortez Road.

Improvements include new sidewalks, added crosswalks on Gulf Drive and across side streets, removing, relocating and planting new landscaping, improving street lights and improving several beach access points.

The new sidewalks are planned along Gulf Drive from about Fifth Street South north to Cortez Road, but the sidewalk on the north end is part of a separate project in the works.

City officials hope to use textured pavement rather than pavers for new or improved crosswalks at Third Street North, Second Street North, Third Street South and Fourth Street South, as well as across Gulf Drive at two locations.

Beach access improvements are planned for Third Street South, where the city wants to add landscaping; Fourth Street South, where the city wants to add landscaping, a dunes walkover and bike racks; and Bridge Street, where the city wants to add a dunes walkover.

“We have to protect those dunes,” said city project and program director Lisa Marie Phillips.

Since Gulf Drive is a state road, city officials seemed uncertain whether Bradenton Beach staff would continue to guide the project or whether the Florida Department of Transportation would assume responsibility.

But city officials felt certain they needed to obtain no easements or property to undertake the plan. Federal rules prohibit the use of federal funding to acquire additional property.

“The rules out of this stimulus package are pretty tough,” McKnight said.

Anna Maria seeks funds

Anna Maria hopes to receive federal stimulus funding for a number of projects, including: Sidewalks/trails, resurfacing, construction of eight trolley shelters and repair of Crescent Avenue and Bay Boulevard bridges in Anna Maria City, $484,000.