Longboat Key residents Lynne and Bill Randa went to a Longboat Pass Bridge forum in their town hall Feb. 26 seeking assurance.
So did Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, local law enforcement officers, bridgetenders, island businesspeople and other Longboat Key property owners.
From Florida Department of Transportation officials, they wanted to hear that a $5 million project to repair the 1957 drawbridge — work is to begin May 1 and continue through November — presents no more than an offseason minor inconvenience.
The DOT delivered the assurance.
“If people don’t notice us, then we’re doing our job,” said James J. Jacobsen, a structures maintenance engineer with the Florida Department of Transportation’s District 1 office. “We’re getting in at night and getting out.”
The Randas live in the Longboat Terrace neighborhood on the north end of Longboat and routinely cross the bridge.
“This affects us, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big inconvenience,” said Lynne Randa as she glanced at a project summary.
Two Longboat Pass bridgetenders, Glen James and Lou Neri, were among the first to arrive to the forum.
James tends the drawbridge during the day and boasted of having a “million dollar view” of the Gulf of Mexico.
Studying DOT handouts and posters arranged in the commission chambers, he said the project likely won’t have much impact on his job.
During construction, motorists may experience slowdowns and backups on the bridge connecting Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach as travel lanes will go from 12 feet to 11 feet.
Also, pedestrian access on the bridge will be limited, and boaters could find reduced clearance.
However, the DOT plans to limit lane closures to nighttime weekdays, nighttime bridge closures to 15 minutes and nighttime bridge closures with detours to a maximum of two nights.
“Our main mission is to extend the life of the bridge, to preserve the bridge,” said Jacobsen, who stressed the structure is safe, but was built 62 years ago in “a very aggressive environment.”
The project to add 10-15 years life to the structure involves repairing the concrete approach, the bascule steel and fender system, rebalancing the bascule span, cleaning and painting the steel, installing new traffic signals and reconditioning mechanical and electrical systems.
“I would describe it as an overall overhaul,” Jacobsen said.
The DOT is funding the repairs with gas tax money.
A contractor had not been hired as of Feb. 27.
About the project
For more information about the Longboat Pass Bridge repair project, go online to swflroads.com.