Will a big bridge destroy the character of the communities it connects?
Opinions are flying about the recent Florida Department of Transportation recommendation to replace the Cortez Bridge — a drawbridge built in 1956 — with a 65-foot-clearance, fixed-span bridge.
The roadbed for the proposed bridge would be 75 to 80 feet high.
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie led a discussion about the proposed megabridge at the May 3 commission meeting.
He said he added the matter to the agenda to discuss the new bridge “as a city.”
“It’s a big disappointment,” Chappie said regarding the DOT decision, adding that he supports a lower bridge. “The island has its character and it’s definitely not high structures and high-rises.”
Commissioner Jake Spooner suggested the city write the DOT a letter expressing concerns.
Chappie agreed and said he would see if Anna Maria and Holmes Beach would do the same.
“At least we would get something on record,” Spooner said.
Commissioner Ralph Cole said he was surprised the DOT opted for the 65-foot bridge, considering the public — in comments provided through a series of public meetings and written filings — supported a 35-foot drawbridge.
However, he said he understands that maintenance costs would be significantly lower for a fixed-span bridge.
Cost for the new bridge is projected to be $72.17 million, but funding has not been allocated.
“They are looking for federal money, which could end up in the courts,” Commissioner Randy White said. “So they’ve got a few hoops to jump through.”
Chappie said that the DOT has talked about forming an “aesthetics committee” for the project and suggested Bradenton Beach residents join, including commission and Scenic WAVES Partnership Committee liaisons.
“I know change is going to happen, but sometimes it’s just tough to take,” Chappie said. “The drawbridges are just that uniqueness — it’s the character of the community. I wish people weren’t always in such a hurry.”