The Cortez Bridge will get approximately $4 million worth of repairs next year.
But the project isn’t a long-term fix for the bridge that was built in 1956.
More than 150 people attended an open-house meeting April 30, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church in Bradenton, to learn more about the bridge’s future and give feedback to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials as part of a two- to three-year study.
The meeting revealed that public feedback has been split between favoring a new bridge and a rehabilitation of the existing structure. FDOT distributed surveys to residents and owners of businesses and properties in Cortez and Anna Maria Island to solicit feedback about plans.
In the 355 surveys returned before the meeting, 49% indicated support for replacing the bridge, while 48% favored rehabilitation. FDOT set up a booth at the Cortez Fishing Festival in February and distributed surveys, 168 of which were returned. Of those respondents, 55% supported rehabilitation, while 36% supported replacement.
“It’s really close so far,” said FDOT communications specialist Robin Stublen. “There are so many different alternatives.”
The surveys also ask respondents whether they prefer a high-level fixed bridge, mid-level drawbridge or low-level drawbridge, should the bridge require replacement.
Costs of rehabilitation and replacement options have not yet been determined, according to Stublen.
Longboat Key Commissioner Pat Zunz, who attended the FDOT meeting, said she doesn’t believe a high-level fixed bridge would be feasible because it would have to extend far back into side streets of Cortez.
“The best thing we can hope for is a mid-level bridge that doesn’t open that often,” said Zunz, who believes that a mid-level bridge would allow most boats to pass under it without requiring it to open, alleviating traffic.
The bridge’s future directly affects Longboat Key residents, many of whom use the bridge to travel to and from the mainland.
Longboat Key residents can fill out surveys on the project’s website, cortezbridge.com, through May 10.
The April 30 open house was FDOT’s kick-off meeting for the project. The department will hold a public workshop to present alternative options for the bridge and a formal public hearing during which it will consider rebuild and no-build options.