MPO sets 2018 priorities: island roads, bridges

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Jestin Abraham of the Florida Department of Transportation reports Dec. 18 the left turn from eastbound Cortez onto northbound 119th Street West was eliminated. A dedicated eastbound turn lane from southbound 119th Street West is outlined by raised concrete curbs. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

The direction of roads and bridges on Anna Maria Island will take a turn to the future in 2018.

“It’s our No. 1 priority,” said Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac. “Create more capacity.”

Island road and bridge updates were included in a Florida Department of Transportation presentation Dec. 18, 2017, for the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization before roughly 50 people. The meeting lasted nearly three hours.

“There are some proposals bubbling through the process,” said David Hutchinson, MPO executive director. “I don’t know if any of them will get legs, as they say. We shall see.”

It’s certain, however, a key decision will be made on what kind of bridge will link the island to Cortez and the mainland on Cortez Road West.

Although the DOT projected the Cortez Bridge decision would be made by Thanksgiving 2017, DOT spokesman Zachary Burch said it still is not a done deal.

“At this point, we do not have a final decision yet,” Burch said in a Dec. 27 email.

Cortez Bridge on State Road 684-Cortez Road West spans the Intracoastal Waterway at Bradenton Beach. The 90-foot wide bascule has a vertical clearance of 22 feet when closed.

Three options are possible.

The DOT could repair the 1957-built bridge for an estimated $10.7 million and increase its life span 10 years.

The DOT has expressed its preference for a 65-foot clearance fixed bridge replacement with a projected 75-year life span for an estimated $72 million.

Many Cortez residents have lobbied DOT to build a 35-foot vertical-clearance drawbridge at an estimated cost of $105 million. It, too, would have a projected 75-year life span.

The decision and an announcement is expected in the first quarter of 2018.

The $675,000 barrier island traffic study will conclude in 2018, too, and already it has provided dozens of preliminary road-improvement suggestions.

Burch said input received at the steering committee meeting at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at the Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, will be taken into account for phase three.

Hutchinson said the third and final phase of the traffic study will conclude with a final round of public meetings.

One road change was completed in December. The orange barrier cones are gone from the intersection of Cortez Road West and 119th Street West, and so is the left turn from eastbound Cortez onto northbound 119th Street West. A sign is posted indicating such a turn is now illegal.

A dedicated eastbound turn lane from southbound 119th Street West onto Cortez Road West is outlined by protective raised concrete curbs, said Jestin Abraham of the DOT.

The five-year DOT work program budget for 2018-22 for Manatee County is estimated at $441,727,289.

Anna Maria Island-related projects include $10 million to start work on the Cortez Bridge, $4.3 million for Longboat Pass Bridge repairs, $2.15 million for a road-repair study from Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach to North Shore Road on Longboat Key, $1.1 million for a bridge replacement on State Road 789 through Perico Bay Boulevard, $1.1 million for the Anna Maria Island Bridge, $993,771 for an intersection lighting retrofit along 8 miles of Cortez Road West, and $208,725 for Holmes Beach traffic signal reimbursement.

The MPO was created in the 1950s to provide a local voice for the state on transportation issues.

“It’s been a very productive year,” said Hutchinson. “We’re looking forward to the year ahead.”

A joint meeting with the Charlotte County-Punta Gorda MPO will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 22, at the Venice Community Center, 326 S. Nokomis Ave., Venice.


Barrier island traffic study at a glance
The Florida Department of Transportation is conducting a three-phase study to improve traffic flow on the Sarasota/Manatee barrier islands and island-to-mainland connections. Here’s where the $675,000 study is now:

Phase 1: Recommendations from previous studies evaluated for possible use. Completed.
Phase 2: Traffic data and parking studies quantified issues on island roadways. Concluded with 64 recommendations. Public meeting Jan. 26.
Phase 3: Develop transportation management plan and recommendations to improve traffic flow. In progress.
Unique element: Factor in needs of seasonal visitors.


DOT plans to deliver traffic study phase 2 results
Two phases down, one to go.

The Sarasota-Manatee barrier islands study by the Florida Department of Transportation on improving traffic flow and island-to-mainland connections is moving into its final phase.

Phase 2 results, which include traffic data, land use and parking studies, will be discussed at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, at the Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key.

Traffic findings, congestion hot spots and parking evaluations will be discussed by DOT personnel.

Comments from the Dec. 5 public meeting also will be presented.

Phase 3 will involve final DOT recommendations to improve traffic flow. The DOT presented 64 preliminary suggestions.

The study is expected to conclude in the summer.

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