Bridge refresh will cost $5.2 million and last through the summer.
Work got started Monday on the Longboat Pass Bridge, and transportation officials say they will try to keep lane closures and traffic disruptions to a minimum while maintaining communications with first responders who might need to cross in an emergency.
Also, by the end of summer, the region should get its first glimpse at plans for another bridge of prime importance to Longboat Key residents: the Cortez Bridge from Bradenton Beach to the mainland.
On Monday, though, crews kicked off work on a laundry list of jobs on the Longboat Pass span. The $5.2 million project 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.
Officials from Florida Department of Transportation said the work will result in occasional lane closures but will largely be between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Monday through Friday. Those lane closures will also affect the sidewalks.
Construction workers will coordinate with emergency responders in such cases, officials said, to ensure ambulances or other equipment aren’t trapped in traffic.
According to Brian Rick, the regional spokesman for FDOT, contractor Southern Road & Bridge will complete these tasks:
- Replacing and repairing rusted portions of the grid deck, the part of the bridge that is raised and lowered;
- Repairs to the bridge’s concrete road deck;
- Reinforcement of steel beams;
- Work on the railings along the span of the bridge;
- Upgrading the underwater erosion protection;
- Work on the drawbridge’s mechanical and electrical systems;
- Repairs to the fenders at the water level, which protect the structure from boat collisions.
The bridge is considered safe. But because of the deterioration rates of structural, mechanical and electrical components in the saltwater environment, this project was necessary, FDOT said.
FDOT will begin a study in 2020 to decide whether to do future long-term repairs on the bridge or to replace it.
Rick said it’s important for drivers to keep attentive, even if it doesn’t appear workers are present.
A percentage of the planned work will take place underwater, Rick said, and that other segments will take place within mechanical spaces and likewise won’t affect traffic.
“Obviously, folks should know it’s going to be a work zone very soon,” he said. “So even if you don’t see workers present in that respect, [you] should drive slow and be careful.”
State transportation officials expect to soon deliver preliminary plans for the Cortez Bridge. FDOT said in 2018 that design of a 65-foot high span to replace the drawbridge would take place in 2019 with acquisition of right of way planned in 2020-2021.
In a 2017 letter to FDOT, Longboat Key leaders said, “Other communities have seen high fixed-span bridges replace drawbridges with great success.
“For example, the city of Sarasota went from initially objecting to the higher fixed span bridge (during the planning process) to embracing it as a defining element of their city. The John Ringling Causeway is now considered an iconic landmark and is a prominent and celebrated component of the Sarasota landscape.”
Bradenton Beach and Cortez residents said such a tall span wouldn’t fit in the landscape and would be a “monstrosity.”
Construction costs were estimated at $72 million.