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Date of Issue: August 13, 2008

Final public meeting before bridge closure set for Sept. 18

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Only a quarter
With the speed limit on the Anna Maria Island Bridge now reduced to 25 mph during the rehabilitation project, Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies and Bradenton police officers have begun targeting speeding motorists there. The deputies shown above were checking speeds on Aug. 6, at the east end of the bridge and said they will return at random intervals. The fine for a speeding ticket doubles if workers are present when a motorist is stopped. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Islanders and anyone who uses the Anna Maria Island Bridge will get their last chance to hear and be heard Sept. 18, just 11 days before the Florida Department of Transportation will close the bridge for a planned 45-day period as part of the $9.2 million bridge rehabilitation project.

The DOT has set a public meeting on the closure for 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach. The DOT said in a press release that the meeting will “give residents, business owners and other stakeholders an opportunity to obtain a better understanding of what to expect from various agencies during the closure period.”

Officials from the Manatee County Area Transit will be on hand to provide information on a planned trolley route along 75th Street and on Cortez Road on the mainland detour and bring them to and from the Island via the Cortez Bridge. The ride, like the trolley on the Island, would be free for passengers.

The Cortez Bridge will be the Island’s only link to the mainland during the planned 45-day closure period. The Longboat Key Bridge linking the Island with Longboat Key will remain operational during this period.

At the Sept. 18 meeting, various agencies and businesses will have representatives available to answer questions about operations during the closure.

But a number of Island business owners have already expressed their disapproval with the Sept. 29-Nov. 13 closure period.

The concern among the owners is that the Island’s winter tourist season traditionally begins in October and the closure period will interfere with the season. Additionally, any delay in re-opening the bridge Nov. 13 as planned could seriously affect the Island’s economy, which depends heavily on winter visitors and the Thanksgiving holiday for business.

The DOT consistently ignored and, finally, just weeks ago rejected the request by the business owners to move the closure dates forward to early September.

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