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Date of Issue: May 21, 2008

City, DOT put rush on intersection work

The southbound turn lane on Gulf Drive at the Cortez Road intersection may be extended by about 750 feet to accommodate traffic routed to the Cortez Bridge this fall, when the Anna Maria Island Bridge closes temporarily. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The Bradenton Beach City Commission and the Florida Department of Transportation rushed last week to file for a permit needed to improve the Cortez Road-Gulf Drive intersection.

The city previously endorsed the DOT project, which involves lengthening the southbound turn lane by about 750 feet to accommodate additional traffic expected when the Anna Maria Island Bridge closes this fall.

In addition to extending the southbound left-turn lane, the DOT needs to widen the roadway, at least temporarily. If the project is implemented as planned, motorists traveling south on Gulf Drive will find two through-lanes and a longer turn lane as they approach Cortez Road.

On May 15, Chris Piazza, project manager for the bridge rehab, returned to city hall with another request of commissioners. To meet the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s concerns about the movement of sand to widen lanes on state-managed Gulf Drive, Piazza asked for a resolution from the city that the beach-quality sand would be used to renourish coastal land.

Piazza said lab tests show that a lot of the sand that will be excavated to widen the road is “beach quality” and the DEP wants the material used for a project seaward of the coastal construction line.

“We’ll give it to you at no cost,” Piazza told the commission May 15. “But we need to have a resolution from the city. That’s the last step in getting this permit resubmitted to DEP. If we can get that, we can send these plans out.”

The proposed resolution on using the sand was prepared May 15 at the advice of city attorney Ralf Brookes. The commissioners then met May 16 and approved the measure.

With the commission OK, Piazza sent a revamped permit request to the DEP, hoping that a review could begin this week.

City officials said most likely the excavated sand would be used for a dunes project near the end of First Street.

The intersection improvement is intended to ease traffic congestion resulting from the 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue in late September. Motorists on the Island will be directed along Gulf Drive to take the Cortez Bridge to the mainland. Motorists from the mainland heading to the Island also will be directed to the Cortez Bridge.

“We’re trying to start work in August,” Piazza said. “We also will do some restoration after the resurfacing, and landscaping. And re-establish the bike lane.”

City officials had asked whether the DOT could work on the intersection at night to reduce daytime traffic jams.

Piazza said the DOT was concerned about the lighting required for night work, the impact on sea-turtle nesting season and obtaining a permit for such activity. He recommended daytime work and city officials indicated their agreement.

“We can get a lot more done during the day than at night,” Piazza said. “And this is really going to help with the 45-day [bridge] closure.”

At the same time the DOT improves the intersection, the agency may install a sidewalk along the east side of Gulf Drive from Cortez Road south to First Street North.

“We will try to do the southeast corner at the same time,” Piazza said. “The issue we run into is the right-of-way easements. We’re not opposed to doing the work, but we need the easements.”

Bradenton Beach public works director Tom Woodard and city attorney Ricinda Perry are working at securing such easements from property owners in the area.

In other business last week, the city commission:

  • Approved a request from the Historic Bridge Street Merchants Association to hold the Bridge Street Market on the first and third Saturday of each month from October through July.
  • Approved removing a 1996 Ford Bronco and a 1998 Ford Explorer from the city’s asset list.

City attorney Ralf Brookes joked, “Can you even get parts for those?”

  • Approved a letter engaging Christopher, Smith and Leonard as auditors for a fiscal-year review.
  • Approved a special event application for the Fish Hole to hold a grand-opening party, which took place May 17.
  • Approved payment of an invoice for $4,173.12 from Lewis, Longman and Walker for legal services.
  • Approved payment of an invoice for $2,551 from Dye, Deitrich, Petruff and St. Paul for legal services.
  • Approved payment of an invoice from M.T. Causley for $4,200 for building official services.

The next commission meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.