EAST COUNTY — A long-debated north-south connector across the Manatee River is closer than ever to being constructed.
A final environmental impact statement published online this week recommends Manatee County move forward with the design and construction of the Fort Hamer Bridge.
The URS Corp.’s report, which was overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard and published to its website, says the proposed two-lane Fort Hamer Bridge is the most viable north-south bridge alternative compared to two other options explored: expanding the Rye Road Bridge or doing nothing.
The bridge would connect Fort Hamer Park to Upper Manatee River Road.
The Coast Guard had released a draft of the URS Corp.’s environmental impact statement June 25, 2013.
URS’ final draft incorporated public comments gathered from an Aug. 7, 2013 meeting chaired by the Coast Guard.
In its final report, URS says Fort Hamer Bridge would shorten emergency-response times and be cheaper than expanding the Rye Road Bridge.
URS found, that although the Fort Hamer Bridge would increase traffic on Upper Manatee River Road and Fort Hamer Road, it would produce less noise than the Rye Road alternative.
The final EIS says the Fort Hamer Bridge would have less wetland dredge/fill impacts and more floodplain impacts than the Rye Road alternative.
URS calls those impacts unavoidable and said they would be mitigated in accordance with federal- and state-permit requirements.
Randy Overton, the Coast Guard project manager who oversaw the report, said the final EIS will be made available Friday, April 11, for in-person public review at the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce, Central Library and Rocky Bluff Library.
While the Coast Guard is still waiting on a few permits, Overton says he does not anticipate any more public meetings about the Fort Hamer Bridge in the future.
Overton said the Environmental Protection Agency will also publish the final EIS.
When the EPA does so, after a mandatory waiting period, the Coast Guard expects to issue its final permit to Manatee County — allowing the construction of the bridge — by mid-June.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].