The project is expected to take six months to complete.
The Longboat Key Pass drawbridge has outlived its design life by 11 years, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. But with repairs it plans to start in May, it hopes the bridge can last another 10.
FDOT will hold a public meeting from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 26 at Town Hall to explain to Longboat Key residents the planned $3.7 million structural improvements to the bridge.
As one of two ways off the island, the bridge that connects Longboat to Bradenton Beach is a routine route and a critical link in an evacuation.
“This meeting will be an open house format with no formal presentation made,” said Brian Rick, an FDOT spokesman.
“Those attending the meeting will be able to view displays, ask questions, and discuss the work one-on-one with members of the project team.”
The planned improvements to the drawbridge include repairs to the concrete approach span and the moveable steel span. Construction is tentatively scheduled to start in May after season is over, with completion estimated by late in the year, possibly around Thanksgiving.
Rick said there will be times when single lanes will be closed and times when the bridge will be closed to traffic.
“A single lane closure will be permitted on the bridge from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., but only during active work periods,” Rick said. “There will be no lane closures permitted from Friday 9 p.m. to Sunday 6 a.m. This lane closure is needed to conduct repairs within the travel lanes, which include concrete repairs, deck weld repairs, expansion joints.
“A bridge closure and detour will be permitted between midnight and 5 a.m. for a maximum of two days total,” he said. “A temporary 15-minute maximum bridge closure is permitted from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. This closure is to needed in order to keep the bascule span raised so that we can install and remove the temporary mechanical span drive hydraulic cylinders in the machinery room.”
Longboat Police and Longboat Fire Rescue have said they don’t anticipate any problems with the closure. Helicopters can be brought in if there is a serious injury, they have said.
“A lane will almost always be open,” Police Chief Pete Cumming said.
There should also be no navigation delay, either, since the U.S. Coast Guard has approved the project, FDOT said.
The drawbridge was built in 1957. It needs structural steel repairs and repairs to its movable deck span. Additionally, a fender system will be installed at the waterline to protect the columns from damage by boats, along with rip-rap installation on either side of the pass to ward off erosion problems. Traffic signals will be upgraded and repairs made to the sidewalk and potholes will be fixed on the road surface.
FDOT has said the span is in fair condition but is functionally obsolete.
Despite making the repairs, Rick said FDOT will begin a study in 2020 to examine long-term repair, or replacement options.
FDOT in the past year has also recommended the aging drawbridge from Cortez to Bradenton Beach be replaced with a fixed span structure to cut down on traffic stoppages for boat traffic.