Some Cortez Bridge options — including rehab — eliminated by DOT

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The Cortez Bridge will be the subject of a Florida Department of Transportation public hearing at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. It will be the final public meeting before the DOT chooses to repair or replace the bridge that opened in 1957.
The Florida Department of Transportation began its study on the Cortez Bridge repair-replacement options in 2013.

The Florida Department of Transportation is down to three options involving the 61-year-old Cortez Bridge and a final decision will be made in October.

The DOT will hold its final public hearing to gather public input at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6110 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.

Bridge designs will be on display and DOT representatives will answer questions, according to Jerri McCants of DOT.

A formal hearing, which includes a video presentation on the available options, will begin at 6 p.m.,

“We’re expecting a pretty good turnout,” said Zachary Burch, DOT public information officer.

Public comment will be accepted at the meeting and until Sept. 12. The DOT will make its final decision roughly a month later, Burch said.

Options include repairing the 1957-built span, building a 35-foot vertical-clearance drawbridge or building a 65-foot vertical-clearance fixed bridge, according to the DOT.

“Each of the three options has its own advantages and disadvantages,” said Burch.

Three options have been eliminated: a rehabilitation expected to last 25 years and a 21- or 45-foot vertical clearance drawbridge.

“A leading alternative will be presented at the public meeting,” Burch said. “But we haven’t made a decision.”

Burch said the DOT will make its decision after the meeting. The favored option will be forwarded to the Office of Environmental Management for approval, he said.

“If they agree, it becomes the selected alternative,” he said.

A $1.5 million DOT options study covered a 1-mile stretch of Cortez Road,/State Road 684 from Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach to 123rd Street West in Cortez.

Estimated costs range from $4.5 million for repair to $72 million for the fixed bridge and $105 million for the drawbridge.

A new bridge would be designed to last up to 75 years, or until 2100, according to the DOT. A repair would last 10 years.

“The repair option is by far the cheapest,” Burch said. “The downside is replacement options have 75-year-service lives versus a 10-year service life.”

The repair estimate does not include maintenance or bridge tender costs, which replacement bridge estimates do, he said. This could drive up the actual costs of a repair, he said.

“If you’re constantly repairing a bridge it gets pricey,” Burch said. “Historic, iconic bridges require tons of maintenance and constant monitoring.”

Work on the repair option would likely begin in 2025. A repair project completed in March 2015 is expected to last until then.

The DOT study noted several reservations about repairing Cortez Bridge. It is too narrow with no shoulders and substandard curbs, is vulnerable to ship impact and storm surge and does not reduce bridge openings or delays.

Repairing Cortez Bridge would also mean closing it for nine weeks for construction and using a detour via Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach on the Anna Maria Island Bridge or to Sarasota’s Ringling Bridge.

The replacement drawbridge is the most costly option, according to Burch.

“It will have higher maintenance costs because it’s moveable and breakable, and you have to pay a bridge tender,” Burch said. “It still has to open and will still stop traffic.”

The fixed bridge exacts a greater toll on the environment but will reduce time lost to bridge openings, he said.

The fixed bridge also is the least popular with Cortez residents and business owners who have complained its large footprint will make it harder to reach their homes and businesses.

Bridge inspections between 2008 and 2012 determined the two-lane Cortez Bridge is functional but structurally obsolete.

Who: Open to the public.
What: Public hearing on Cortez Bridge replacement options.
When: 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31.
Where: Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.
Why: To discuss options and gather public comment on replacement or repair options for the Cortez Bridge.
How: Draft project reports are available at the Island Branch Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, and Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.
Project manager: Marlon Bizerra,, 863-519-2250.

DOT Cortez Road-119th Street improvements

Interim traffic signal improvements along Cortez Road should be operational by the end of the year, according to John Kubler, DOT director of transportation development.

The eastbound traffic signal at 119th Street West soon will be activated only by pedestrians to allow free flow of traffic off Anna Maria Island, according to Kubler.

A stop sign will be installed on the south leg of 119th Street West allowing vehicles to turn onto Cortez Road without waiting for a signal.

The signal for westbound Cortez Road will remain to accommodate 119th Street West traffic moving from southbound to eastbound, according to Kubler.

The DOT also is pursuing permanent realignment of the intersection through the adjacent Florida Maritime Museum property. The realignment option received the most support from attendees at the May 9 public hearing, according to Kubler.

Medians are not planned for the road west of 119th Street West as part of the permanent improvements, Kubler said.

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