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Date of Issue: May 19, 2005

Coast Guard hints bridge opening schedules may change

Boaters may have to wait a little longer to pass through drawbridges in Anna Maria Sound, and motorists may have a little quicker commute as a result.

For the first time in decades of trying, U.S. Coast Guard officials have indicated a willingness to change the current three-times-an-hour timed bridge opening schedule for the Anna Maria Island and Cortez bridges.

That’s the word from Mike Howe with the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. He told the three Island mayors at Monday’s Island Transportation Planning Organization that Michael Lieberman with the Coast Guard’s Miami office said he would be amenable to changing the timed openings to twice an hour as a means to alleviate traffic congestion on and off the Island.

The Coast Guard regulates all bridge opening schedules in the United States.

"This is a big, big step," said Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, who initially requested the timing change earlier this year. "This is a major accomplishment."

"This is a great opportunity," added Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie.

ITPO members agreed to send another letter to the Coast Guard again requesting the change from the present 20-minute interval openings to half-hour intervals, as well as requesting that during "peak hours" - 3 to 6 p.m. daily - the two bridges only open once per hour.

Coast Guard officials said they could not endorse any changes to the Longboat Pass Bridge or New Pass Bridge opening schedule.