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Date of Issue: August 16, 2007

Sidewalk project well under way in Bradenton Beach

Workers with Semper Fi Group LLC construction of Palmetto have been hard at work in northern Bradenton Beach creating a new streetscape on the east side of Gulf Drive. The work includes landscaping, but the most visible aspect of the project is the new sidewalk, which will run from Cortez Road to the north city limits at 27th Street. Islander Photo: Paul Roat

A project that has probably been decades in the making is well under way in northern Bradenton Beach.

The sidewalks are coming! The sidewalks are coming!

The Florida Department of Transportation has funded a $380,569 effort to place sidewalks along the east side of Gulf Drive from Cortez Road to the northern city limits of Bradenton Beach. Semper Fi Group LLC of Palmetto was contracted via the DOT to do the job.

According to DOT spokesperson Cindy Clemmons-Adente, the work will also include a portion of the sidewalk along Avenue C and 22nd Street North “to get the pedestrians out of the S-curve on SR 789 between these two side streets.” She said the project also includes landscaping at various locations along Gulf Drive.

Work began July 30 on the 50-day project. A representative said Semper hoped to finish the sidewalks by Labor Day, which is Sept. 3.

Sidewalk creation began at the S-curve at Avenue C and 22nd Street and then proceeded north. Crews had some modest one-way traffic tie-ups late last week, but were moving quickly northward.

The southern portion of the project is basically to link existing sidewalks to the new to provide pedestrians with a seamless stroll through Bradenton Beach.

City officials, residents and visitors have been awaiting sidewalks through the length of the city for decades.

Through the city’s designation as a scenic highway several years ago, the wait got shorter. State funds available, plans were fomented, and the project became something of a priority.

Unfortunately, state budget cuts scaled back the sidewalk effort to only the east side of the roadway. The dream at some point is to have a wide pedestrian pathway run along both sides of Gulf Drive.

Also of note in the city is the Coquina Beach Trail along Cortez Beach  and Coquina Beach from Fifth Street South to the Longboat Bridge. That project is for the most part completed. Landscaping is still to come, but the trail proper is completed and is now being utilized by pedestrians and cyclists.

The Coquina Beach redesign is also nearly complete. That project was prompted by the shootings that saw three men injured on Easter Sunday this year. Bradenton Beach Police made many requests to Manatee County parks officials regarding unsafe conditions caused by “undesirable” people “cruising” the beach.

The Coquina Beach re-design calls for a number of pod-like parking areas on the west side of Gulf Drive, which planners believe will better facilitate a law enforcement presence at Manatee County’s largest beach.

Manatee County’s parks and recreation landscape architect Mike Sosadeeter said last week that all the bollards have been installed and parking lots have been graded. The planting of native trees in the new parking lot pods is in process. “The trees will hopefully be installed in the next two months or so,” he said.

Trees were an issue in the Coquina Beach Trail construction, as many residents objected to the removal of numerous Australian pines along the pathway to make way for the bollards and trail. County officials pledged to re-plant with native vegetation.

And on a final south-Bradenton Beach note, plans are moving forward to re-locate the southernmost Manatee Trolley stop closer to the concession stand at Coquina Beach.

Again, scenic highway members had requested the southernmost stop be relocated to allow riders to enjoy the concessionaire’s offerings, and Manatee County is apparently in agreement.

“Parks and recreation will also be working on finalizing Phase I of the new bus-trolley stop area in front of the Coquina Beach concession building in the next few months,” Sosadeeter said.