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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Key Royale Bridge funding pushed back

Holmes Beach elected officials at the April 21 Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials got some bad news from County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann.

The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization has dropped funding for a new Key Royale Bridge from its proposed 2006-07 budget.

"It's now been pushed back to the 2007-08 budget," von Hahmann told the BIEO.

Great, quipped Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, who chaired the meeting, noting the bridge has been pushed out of every MPO budget cycle since she first entered politics in 1991 as a city commissioner.

At one time, the Key Royale Bridge was third on a list of MPO bridge priority projects, but was eventually dropped to No. 13.

"It was a matter of balancing the funds available with priorities of the MPO," said Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Maryemma Bachelder when contacted after the meeting. "The bridge replacement just didn't need to be done ASAP. It's not in that bad a shape."

About $1.38 million is programmed for the bridge work, of which about $1.2 million is for construction.

But the BIEO did gets some good news.

Use of the Island trolley is way up, von Hahmann said, and there's every indication the grant to fund the free service will be renewed by the DOT.

On many days this past winter, more than 2,000 people rode the trolley and the daily passenger average is well above 1,000.

What a difference between a trolley and a bus, she noted.

When the Manatee County Area Transit operated a bus on the Island, the average daily ridership was about 60 people per day.

Von Hahmann also asked Longboat Key Mayor Ron Johnson to discuss with the town commission the idea of extending trolley service through Longboat Key. She said she's gotten a lot of calls from people on the north end of Longboat Key for the service.

Johnson said he has, but the initial discussion has indicated there's not enough interest. He'll bring the issue back to the commission, he said.

In other business, Whitmore said the information signs for Cortez Road West and Manatee Avenue West advising motorists of Island conditions should be up before hurricane season starts.

Von Hahmann advised the BIEO that the county commission at its May 4 meeting will discuss a $25,000 grant to move a boat ramp at the east end of the Palma Sola Causeway to a less-congested area a few hundred yards further west. The current location is also popular with bathers and picnickers and has become very congested. Elected officials and members of the public are invited to attend the meeting and provide input to the commission.

Johnson reminded the BIEO that the Longboat Pass Bridge will be closed completely on five separate occasions during the six-month bridge repair period, and motorists should be given plenty of notice about those closures.

Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips said that Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis will speak to her city's commission in the near future on the organization and operation of a city manager form of government. She invited BIEO members to attend, once the date for St. Denis is set.

St. Denis has made similar presentations to Holmes Beach and Anna Maria elected officials.