Cortez hopes to sway DOT: Spare village, repair bridge

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The 60-year-old Cortez Bridge opens in February for a boater with Cortez and the U.S. Coast Guard-Station Cortez in the backdrop. The DOT will host a final public hearing Aug. 31 to consider options for the bridge. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

Battle lines are drawn as decision time for the Cortez Bridge draws near.

The Florida Department of Transportation has announced it is leaning toward the largest replacement option for the bridge.

The DOT emphasized it has not yet decided to build a $72 million, 65-foot vertical-clearance fixed bridge, but it is the favored option.

The new bridge will have a service life of 75 years, the DOT projects.

If you go…
Who:
Anyone interested in the repair or replacement of the Cortez Bridge.
What: Community meeting.
When: 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26.
Where: Fishermen’s Hall, 4511 124th St. W., Cortez.
Why: To lobby Florida Department of Transportation to choose to repair rather than replace the Cortez Bridge.

It is not the favored option for some locals, who will gather 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at Fishermen’s Hall, 4511 124th St. W., Cortez, to discuss strategies for lobbying DOT decision-makers to fix the existing bridge.

“We’re fighting the big bridge,” said Linda Molto of Cortez.

Molto said many Cortez residents want the bridge repaired and preserved as an iconic representative of the “low-rise” fishing village it serves.

A DOT study indicated the bridge can be repaired for $4.5 million but it will again need repair in 10 years and will be “substandard” throughout the rest of its life.

The meeting is to prepare for the DOT public hearing at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.

The hearing would be the last before the DOT chooses to repair or replace the bridge that opened in 1957 with great fanfare, including dignitaries at a ribbon-cutting and elephants and circus performers in the opening promenade across the new bridge.

Nancy Deal of Holmes Beach accused the DOT of deliberately scheduling the final public meeting at a time when many residents and opponents are still “up north.”

“Convenience is DOT’s concern, not destruction of the environment and community, nor public safety during high-wind events,” Deal wrote in an email to The Islander.

The DOT has conducted more than a dozen public meetings on the bridge.

Public comment will be accepted at the hearing and online at cortezbridge.com until Sept. 12, according to Zachary Burch, DOT public information officer. The DOT will submit its final decision for federal government approval roughly one month later, Burch said.

Bridge inspections between 2008 and 2012 determined the two-lane Cortez Bridge is structurally obsolete although it remains sound. The 61-year-old bridge is 11 years past its projected 50-year service life.

The DOT began planning Cortez Bridge repair or replacement options in 2013.

Draft project reports are available at the Island Branch Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, and Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, or go to cortezbridge.com.

 

Cortez Bridge options at a glance

Repair 1957-built bridge, $4.5 million estimated cost, 10-year life span.

Advantages: Lowest initial cost. No harm to environment. No boat-height limitations. No rights of way or easement purchases. Preferred by community.

Disadvantages: Must be redone every 10 years. Bridge too narrow with no shoulders and substandard curbs, vulnerable to ship impact and storm surge. Bridge openings delay water and road traffic. Would close nine weeks during construction, sending detours via the Anna Maria Island and Ringling bridges.

Build 65-foot vertical-clearance fixed bridge, $72 million cost, 75-year life span.

Advantages: No operating costs or boat-height restrictions, no bridge-opening delays, stormwater runoff treated, wider sidewalk, increased resistance to storm surge and ship impact. Favored by DOT.

Disadvantages: Greater toll on environment, least popular with Cortez residents and business owners who say its large footprint will make it harder to reach homes and businesses. Steeper grade. Construction will harm seagrasses. Requires right-of-way and easement purchases.

Build 35-foot vertical-clearance drawbridge, $105 million, 75 years.

Advantages: No boat-height restrictions, reduced delays for openings, stormwater runoff treated, wider sidewalk, increased resistance to storm surge and ship impact.

Disadvantages: Most costly option, higher maintenance and bridge tender costs, openings delay water and road traffic. Steeper grade.

Construction will harm seagrasses. Requires right-of-way and easement purchases.

Eliminated options: A rehabilitation expected to last 25 years and a 21- and 45-foot vertical clearance drawbridge.

DOT information website: cortezbridge.com.

12 thoughts on “Cortez hopes to sway DOT: Spare village, repair bridge

  1. sue

    Who pays for the repair / new bridge?……I think a new bridge would help the 45 min wait to get onto Anna Marie island in season….

    Reply
  2. Brian Pashoian

    A new bridge to Coquina Beach would alleviate all problems, I believe,, and keep the Cortez Village area in tact as a historic treasure that it is. It would also alleviate traffic congestion in the process of building a new Cortez bridge somewhat.

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    Reply
  3. Larry burns

    Most Islanders do not want a new bridge. The State should tell us which BIG MONEY interests are behind this project!

    Reply
  4. Claire G Polsey

    I agree with Mary D.. Harrison, lets not destroy our Old Florida charm and also want to add that in Maine the bridges have openings at certain times and you have to be there then, they don’t open for any boat that decides to go through whenever they choose, they usually open on the hour at 10, 12, 2, 4 , 6 o’clock. I also think having a bridge to Longboat Key would be a good idea. I am a resident of LBK.

    Reply
  5. Jenni

    How will any of these options increase the pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues?
    Over the course of the last 5 years as I walked across the bridge, I’ve been hit or knocked out of the way by numerous bicyclists (those without bells or warnings, no helmets, just those who think the ‘pedestrian lane’ is theirs for the taking – not those cyclists who understand and follow the rules of the road, AKA: Pedestrians have the right of way!).
    That does not even come close to the number of individuals who toss their soft drink cups “off the bridge”, and manage to hit pedestrians and/or cyclists.
    Gads. Doesn’t anyone understand the simple rules anymore?
    I’ll cast my vote in favor of protecting wetlands AND those individuals who use the bridge as pedestrians!

    Reply
  6. Patty Swann

    I believe a new bridge should be replaced at longboat Key. There is so much traffic to & from Longboat Key. The traffic comes from the workers that work on longboat key & from Sarasota to and from . I go to Holmes Beach from the village of Cortez and the traffic is not as bad as if I go to Coquina Beach sometimes I have to wait 45 minutes from Coquita just to get to Cortez stoplight . I know people on longboat have more say than the people in Cortez Village . 😂

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  7. Yvonne Bodhaine Ross

    No matter what kind of bridge is repaired/constructed, it will not solve the traffic issue. Adding a southern bridge to Longboat makes more sense. I lived in Cortez when current bridge was constructed, and now as a retiree, I was drawn back to Cortez due its historical Old Florida charm. I have since purchased a home in Cortez Park. Constructing a new bridge will ultimately destroy the spirit of the area. Bigger is not always the best way to go.

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  8. Mary D. Harrison

    We strongly support the repair of the old bridge. There is no need to displace our citizens and take our home to have a BIG bridge to a two lane road. A tall bridge can’t be used in high winds either. We don’t want high rise buildings or high rise bridges! Let’s keep the charm of Old Florida.
    The traffic problem can be solved by a new bridge to Longboat Key. The new communities being built on the mainland will need a new bridge to Longboat Key. That’s what FDOT should be working on!
    Please don’t take our home away!

    Mary D. Harrison
    Edward A. Schwartz
    Bridgeport Condo
    Bradenton Beach

    Reply

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