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Date of Issue: February 03, 2010

Park-and-ride gets ScenicWAVES go-ahead

A Bradenton Beach committee gave the go-ahead Jan. 27 to applying for federal stimulus money for a park-and-ride operation in the city.

Two city commissioners and the mayor attended the meeting of the ScenicWAVES at city hall, but the commission has not yet discussed an application.

And several hurdles remain to be cleared — the first being the U.S. Senate must pass and the president must sign the Jobs for Main Street Act.

In mid-December, the House approved its bill — intended to create or save jobs with targeted investments of $75 billion for highways and transit, school renovation, education, public safety and affordable housing.

“There may or may not be a second round of stimulus,” said Manon Lavoie of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Lavoie said the DOT can’t wait until the bill’s fate is decided to prepare applications. “The DOT,” she said, “is gathering projects. Last year, we were all last-minute. This time, we are putting the horse in front of the cart.”

The park-and-ride project in Bradenton Beach likely would involve two funding requests:

• Funding for electric vehicles to transport people from beach parking lots to Bridge Street, as well as the tools to keep the vehicles charged and a shelter for them at night.

• Funding for signs or other amenities to designate the park-and-ride station at Cortez Beach.

In previous discussions, ScenicWAVES members focused on using the low-speed electric carts to transfer workers in the commercial district from remote parking.

But last week, the discussion expanded to include the general public, with the park-and-ride operation working in tandem with the Island trolley.

“The route is very defined and limited — to Bridge Street and the circle,” said ScenicWAVES member Ed Chiles.

Visitors, Chiles said, “can come down and have a slice of Bradenton Beach” and leave their cars in the beach parking lot.

The low-speed vehicles would travel from Cortez Beach to Bridge Street along the rights of way parallel to Gulf Drive. The vehicles also would travel to Coquina Beach.

In addition to a city commission endorsement of the project, the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization must approve.

“The MPO is going to prioritize,” Lavoie said, noting that additional applications will come from other governments, including Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

Details still to be worked out include whether Manatee County officials, especially those with Manatee County Area Transit, want to partner in the park-and-ride concept.

The ScenicWAVES group, as well as Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce, suggested MCAT operate the low-speed vehicles. Each vehicle, which would comply with U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, would hold about 15 passengers.