Replacement would be years away if study leads to that conclusion.
More than $2 million has been set aside in the Florida Department of Transportation’s fiscal year 2020 budget for an initial study of the Longboat Pass Bridge and its possible replacement.
A document produced by the FDOT Office of Work Program and Budget indicates $2.126 million will pay for a Project Development and Environment Study, to launch in early 2020. Such a study, which could take three years or more to complete, could result in a determination to proceed with replacement-bridge plans.
More detailed plans beyond the initial study would take additional years. FDOT spokesman Brian Rick said only the $2.126 million has been set aside over the next five years.
A PD&E study is typically a first step toward developing a notion of what kind of alternatives would be available for such a replacement project. In the PD&E phase, design options and their environmental and other effects are studied. Recently, FDOT has recommended two existing drawbridges from the mainland to the barrier islands in Manatee County be replaced by high- or mid-rise fixed span bridges.
Rick said at least a workshop and public hearing are planned as part of the PD&E study, though dates and locations have not been set. Beyond the PD&E study, additional phases of study and planning are not programmed in the FDOT's five-year work program.
FDOT is currently working to award the consultant contract, which is expected to be executed in February.
In the meantime, maintenance work and upgrades to structural, electrical and mechanical components of the bridge have been ongoing throughout the summer and are expected to be complete by early autumn. The $5.2 million bridge spruce up, which launched June 10, aims to add a decade or more of service to the 60-year-old drawbridge before state officials consider what to do in the long run.
The bridge is considered safe. But because of the deterioration rates of components in the saltwater environment, this project was necessary, Rick said.
In early September, as part of the ongoing bridge work, FDOT alerted drivers and boat operators of changes in the schedule that allows for bridge openings. The Longboat Pass Bridge will be raised on demand during 30-minute windows at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 6 p.m. for the duration of the renovation project. If no boat traffic requests bridge openings, the span will remain down.
Among other updates to bridge traffic:
- If emergency vehicles approach the bridge while drawbridge is up, the construction team/tender will work to lower the bridge to let the emergency vehicle through.
- Single lane closures will continue Sunday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- No single lane closures on Friday night or Saturday night