DOT establishing Cortez Bridge design committee

The Florida Department of Transportation is recruiting for a committee to help design a proposed megabridge between Cortez and Bradenton Beach.

The proposed 65-foot-clearance fixed-span bridge, recommended last October by the DOT, would replace the drawbridge on Cortez Road/State Road 684.

Spokesman Brian Rick told The Islander Sept. 8 that the DOT seeks to establish a 10-12 member committee. The design process is expected to cost $6.2 million.

“We have reached out to several people in the community,” Rick said, including Cortez businesspeople Karen Bell and Joe Rogers, Bradenton Beach businessman Mike Bazzy, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Bradenton Beach resident Connie Morrow.

“We are still at an early stage in this process,” Rick said of the committee formation.

He said the DOT would recruit members in an email blast, calling out to local businesspeople and with announcements at transportation meetings.

The Island Transportation Planning Organization was set to meet in Bradenton Beach Sept. 14, as The Islander went to press.

The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 21, at the MPO office, 8100 15th St. E., Sarasota.

The Cortez drawbridge underwent major repairs in 1996, 2010 and 2015 and has outlived its lifespan, according to the DOT.

But the proposed replacement faces opposition in the village of Cortez and a legal challenge brought by former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, an online news publisher, several Cortez residents.

The challenge is pending before the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal.

The DOT also is studying options for the Longboat Pass Bridge connecting Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach and is pursuing a planned replacement — already approved and still in the design phase — for the Anna Maria Island Bridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed-span structure.

— Lisa Neff

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