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.