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Date of Issue: May 10, 2007

DOT plans massive Anna Maria bridge rehab

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The Anna Maria Island Bridge will undergo a major rehabilitation project starting next year, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

When Islanders won the battle 10 years ago with the Florida Department of Transportation to save the Anna Maria Island Bridge, DOT officials promised that one day they'd have to return with a major project to keep the bridge operationally sound, a project that would likely cause Islanders and Island visitors a considerable amount of inconvenience.

That day is apparently coming next year.

DOT officials in Bartow said a massive project for the bridge is planned to begin next summer with initial cost estimates already at around $10 million.

"This will be a total bridge rehabilitation," said William Thomas of the DOT's Bartow office.

Because Islanders had requested that the DOT maintain the "historical character" of the bridge when the DOT canceled plans in 1997 to replace the current structure with a 65-foot-clearance, fixed-span bridge, the DOT project now will be "extensive and require more time to carefully rehab the bridge," Thomas said. And it will cost a lot more than originally planned.

Current costs estimates are around $9 million to $10 million, he said, and the plans have already been submitted to the DOT in Tallahassee for approval.

Once the plans are approved, Thomas said, a more realistic cost estimate can be provided and the project will be put out for bid this June.

He indicated the DOT plans to begin work around mid-2008, if possible.

While Thomas did not know how long the rehabilitation project would take, "extensive" repairs on a bridge such as the Anna Maria Island Bridge would likely take a minimum of 12 months and result in numerous lane closures, possibly the entire bridge, for brief periods.

Once a contractor has been selected, more details of the project, including possible lane or bridge closures, will be available to the public, he said.

DOT officials in the past have indicated the department's desire to get out of the drawbridge business and replace all drawbridges on state roads with high-rise, fixed-span structures. Thomas said he had no indication of any DOT plans for such a structure to replace the Anna Maria Island Bridge at this time.