A quick fix for the Cortez Bridge?
If you think one exists, then we’ve got a bridge to sell you.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is currently in the public-involvement and data-collection phase of a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study about the future of the bridge.
The study began in January and could take two or three years.
An open-house meeting took place Tuesday, April 30, and FDOT is distributing surveys to Cortez and Anna Maria Island residents, business owners and property owners seeking feedback about the bridge, including:
Are you in favor of the replacement of the bridge or rehabilitation?
Should the bridge require replacement, what type of improvement would you like to see built? (The question allows respondents to select choices of a high-level fixed bridge, mid-level drawbridge, low-level drawbridge or other.)
Are you a boat owner who uses the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway at the Cortez Bridge?
Many Longboat Key residents use the bridge because it connects mainland Manatee County to Bradenton Beach, located directly to the south of the Key.
According to the project’s website, “The need for the project is based on the structural and functional deficiencies of the existing bridge.”
The latest survey of the 56-year-old bridge took place in April 2012, according to FDOT’s website. At the time, the bridge received a sufficiency rating of 21.7 and a health index score of 75.65, both on a 100-point scale.
A health rating below 85 generally indicates repairs are necessary, although it doesn’t mean the bridge is unsafe. The lower the rating, the better chance it is that replacing the bridge would be more economical than repairing it.
Sufficiency ratings are used to determine whether a bridge should be repaired or replaced and are also part of the formula the Federal Highway Administration uses to allocate funds for bridge replacement.
FDOT considers the Cortez Bridge “functionally obsolete,” meaning it doesn’t meet current road design standards, because of its lack of shoulders, 10-inch concrete roads separating travel lanes from the sidewalk, and old-style bridge railings.
The bridge is also considered “structurally deficient,” meaning it needs a series of repairs or replacement within six years.
Commissioner Phill Younger, who represents the town on the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Board, a regional traffic-planning agency, said last week he didn’t plan to attend the meeting because the project is “so preliminary.”
Still, he believes Longboaters should pay attention to developments.
“It’s in Manatee County, and it’s their bridge, but we’re impacted by it,” Younger said. “If it does get built, I would like to see one like the Ringling Bridge that would enhance the ability to get off the island in an emergency.”