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Date of Issue: August 05, 2005

DOT tells Cortez third lane coming soon

The left-turn in Cortez Road "will be built, no doubt of that, and a lot of people won't like it but we'll get used to it."

That statement was Allen Garner's summary after a meeting between Cortezians and representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation last Thursday night. Garner is president of the village's leading civic action organization, Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.

"I'm sure most people here think it's a waste of money," Garner said. "But it's in contract and will start in a couple of weeks. We'll live with it.

"I didn't hear anyone supporting it at the meeting, but there was some negative comment."

Albert Rosenstein, engineering manager working at DOT's Sarasota Operations Center, explained to a standing-room-only audience that construction will begin Aug. 15 and finish up next spring.

APAC Southeast Inc., which has the $2.5 million contract, was represented at the meeting by Susan Kinney, construction administrator.

The project will extend from 119th Street to just east of the Cortez Bridge. The main artery through Cortez, and the main road from Bradenton to south Anna Maria Island, will end up with the turn lane at its center, an 11-foot-wide traffic lane on each side, a "pedestrian oasis" in the center, sidewalks and bicycle paths on both sides, and some drainage improvements.

The latter were questioned by some attending the meeting, for flooding is an occasionally severe problem in the historic fishing village. Both DOT's Rosenstein and APAC's Kinney were reassuring, saying there would be ditches on each side that will be deeper and wider and cleaner than those now existing. The outfall capacity will be increased 71 percent, Kinney said. 

The absence of designated pedestrian crosswalks drew some fire, too. How are people going to cross safely in traffic? Rosenstein said DOT doesn't put crosswalks in state roads.

Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann wanted to be sure the 119th Street intersection was handled as well as possible. She lives nearby and has been concerned about it for years. Rosenstein said the traffic control light there would be redoubled - one on the south side of the road and one on the north.

When it was noted that in addition to safety factors, DOT's aim is to expedite traffic to Anna Maria Island, Mary Fulford Green said, "Does the Island know about that? Everyone I know there thinks there are already enough cars on the Island."

DOT said, "The construction will require lane closures between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., but a minimum of one lane in each direction will be maintained at all times."