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Date of Issue: July 16, 2008

AMI Bridge lane closures Thursday nights

One lane of the bridge will be closed to vehicular traffic from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. every Thursday through August, the Florida Department of Transportation and Anna Maria Island Bridge rehabilitation project contractor Quinn Construction Inc. of Palmetto have announced.

DOT spokesperson Audrey Clarke said the first closure is scheduled for July 17, and flaggers will move traffic through the one lane open to vehicular traffic.

Quinn will be repairing pile jackets during the night closings, Clarke said, and all closures are weather dependent.

An additional night-time lane closure was slated for Monday, July 14, to allow Quinn to install additional striping for traffic maintenance.

Boat traffic through the bascule will not be affected by the lane closures.

The bridge is scheduled to close to all vehicular traffic for 45 days beginning on Sept. 29 and reopen Nov. 13, weather permitting.

While the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic, boat traffic will be able to transverse through the span at selected times that will coordinate with raising the Cortez Bridge bascule. The system is designed to ensure no boat is “trapped” between the two bridges.

Also during the 45 day closure, emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles will be allowed across the bridge with a phone call to the contractor.

The bridge is expected to reopen Nov. 13, operating on its normal schedule for all vehicular and boat traffic.

For the latest information on the $9.2 rehabilitation project, go on the Web to www.islander.org and click on “community links.” People without Internet access can call 941-792-0369.

 

Meeting for businesses with DOT on bridge closure dates set

In an effort to have the dates for the planned 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge moved forward to the Island’s slowest business period, The Islander staff will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday, July 17, with representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation at the newspaper offices in the Island Shopping Center in Holmes Beach.

The newspaper is advocating that the 45-day closure begin in late August or early September, when the Island is at its slowest period for visitors, real estate sales and retail businesses.

Occupancy rates for Anna Maria Island available from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau show that September is the Island’s second slowest month for accommodation occupancy, trailing only January figures. For September 2007, the occupancy rate was 35.1 percent, compared with 40.9 percent for October 2007.

 Tourist season on the Island traditionally begins in early to mid-October, which creates a conflict with the current 45-day closure period.

The AMI Bridge is slated to reopen Nov. 13, just two weeks before Thanksgiving. Any delay in the bridge reopening that extends into the holiday week will seriously affect Island restaurants, gift shops and accommodations, among other businesses, according to chamber of commerce leaders, Island elected officials and business operators on the Island.

Moving the closure period to the beginning of September - or even late August after public schools reopen - will allow “leeway” for businesses in the event the bridge is not ready to reopen in 45 days, elected officials and business owners and operators have indicated.