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Date of Issue: September 24, 2008

Officials detail AMI Bridge closure plans for public

AMI Bridge closure route
The audience was sparse and only a few had questions at the Florida Department of Transportation Sept. 18 bridge closure meeting after officials - many officials - spoke to their aspect of the Anna Maria Island Bridge closure. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy
The audience was sparse and only a few had questions at the Florida Department of Transportation Sept. 18 bridge closure meeting after officials - many officials - spoke to their aspect of the Anna Maria Island Bridge closure. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy
New natural gas line faces deadline
Work crews for Tampa Electric Company have been busy on the west end of the approach to the Anna Maria Island Bridge, lining Manatee Avenue with equipment while installing a natural gas pipeline that will service island customers. A spokesperson for TECO said the company must complete installation of the pipe across the bridge prior to the bridge closure Sept. 29, or it will have to stop work until the bridge reopens. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Intersection improved
As contractors with the Florida Department of Transportation wrap up their work at the intersection of Cortez Road and Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach, a bicyclist, pedestrians and motorists make use of the added space. Because traffic during the Anna Maria Island Bridge closure will be detoured to the Cortez Bridge, the DOT lengthened the southbound left-turn lane on Gulf Drive at the intersection by about 750 feet. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The Florida Department of Transportation held its final public meeting Sept. 18 to discuss the planned Sept. 29 closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge for 45 days of repairs, and to give Islanders a last opportunity for questions and answers.

There was much in the way of new information from the collection of officials, which included city and county elected officials and staff, a U.S. Coast Guard representative, emergency service providers and law enforcement representatives.

But there appeared to be as many elected officials, government and business representatives ready to speak as there were Islanders and media in the audience.

Many of the invited officials and guests and DOT staff gave an overview of how their agency or company would deal with the planned 45-day closure, but there were few questions at the end of the meeting that was held at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach.

DOT District One (Bartow) Secretary Stan Cann said he wanted to allay the fears of many Island business owners that the bridge would not reopen as planned on Nov. 13.

“We and the contractor are committed to having this project completed in 45 days or less,” he said. “You have my cell,” he told the city officials, “and I want to ensure everybody of our total commitment to getting the job done.”

No one from contractor Quinn Construction Co. of Palmetto attended the meeting, but DOT staff gave assurances that every contingency has been planned and anticipated.

In a Sept. 20 statement from the DOT, Quinn owner Tom Quinn said, “We are working and will continue to work as diligently as possible to complete the work on or before schedule.” 

Greg Wilson of PB Americas, the DOT’s contracted project engineer, said Quinn has every reason to finish on time, particularly given the $560,000 fine it could face if it doesn’t get the bridge open by Nov. 13.

Wilson also announced that projects planned in advance of the closure, such as the extended turn lane on Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach, and a dedicated turn lane from northbound 75th Street onto Manatee Avenue eastbound have been completed.

He said the bridge will close at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28.

And numerous detour signs will mark the route from State Road 64/Manatee Avenue to Cortez Road to Gulf Drive and back. He also announced that law enforcement will be present at four intersections: Gulf at Cortez, Cortez at 75th Street, 75th Street at Manatee Avenue, and East Bay Drive at Manatee Avenue from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the first week of closure.

Tentative plans call for law enforcement presence a second week, he said, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gulf Drive-Cortez Road intersection.

And Wilson asked that boaters observe a no-wake zone in the vicinity of the bridge “due to a worker hanging under the bridge,” and he asked boaters to lower outriggers for one-leaf openings.

There will be no pedestrian traffic - or fishing - on the bridge during the 45-day closure.

Wilson reminded everyone that the project does not end when the contractor finishes the “closure” work. “The contract continues through March 2009” and that there may be further one-lane closures at night during that period. He said some work, including applying four coats of paint, will be done after the closure.

DOT officials assured the audience that the bridge could reopen to at allow at least one lane of traffic in the event of an emergency evacuation.

 Manatee County Chief of Emergency Services Mark Edenfield assured everyone in attendance that an extra ambulance and medical technicians would be on the Island during this period. And Bayflite medical helicoptor service is ready to provide service if needed and will transport some emergency cases to Blake Medical Center rather than across the bay to St. Petersburg.

West Manatee Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brett Pollock said an additional truck and at least three personnel will be stationed at the retired, volunteer fire station in Bradenton Beach during the 45-day closure.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Kenney, supervisor of the Anna Maria substation, said the MCSO vehicles serving the Island have been equipped with “push bumpers” to remove any broken-down vehicles from the [Cortez] bridge in an “expeditious manner.”

Ralf Hessler of Manatee County Area Transit announced that a free shuttle bus will operate a 30-minute loop from 6 a.m. to either 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. from Blake Medical Center to the trolley turnaround at Coquina Beach. He said the Blake-beach shuttle ride and transfers at Blake will be free, but anyone entering along the route will “pay as usual.”

Mark Davis, representing the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce said, “Shop local.”

Ron Nolan, a resident of Gulf Drive, asked officials, “How will you notify us if the bridge reopens?”

Spokesperson Audrey Clarke responded that there will be message signs to alert motorists, e-mails to all who registered at the bridge rehab Web site and at meetings, and the Island city’s mayors will be notified.

Clarke also offered to be available for emergencies 24/7 via the phone contact number listed on the DOT project Web site.

And Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann offered to be an intermediary between people and the DOT. This will be “a test of your will, but I believe the 45 days [of closure] will go quickly.”

For the latest information on the project, access links to the rehab project are available at Click on community links. People without Internet access can call 941-792-0369.


Work detail

Greg Wilson of PB Americas, the DOT’s contracted project engineer, revealed for the first time at the Sept. 18 meeting the work that will be performed by contractor Quinn Construction during the bridge closure starting Sept. 29.

That detailed list of work includes:

  • Structural steel replacement - bascule leafs, including cantilever brackets, sidewalk supports and railing.
  • Replacement of steel open grid and concrete-filled roadway flooring.
  • Concrete deck replacement - 26 spans - which will be completed by doing one lane at a time to allow access.
  • Cleaning and sealing deck expansion joints.
  • Lead paint removal.
  • Replacement of electrical system, power and controls.