State transportation officials begin hearing from residents on an approach to take in replacing or fixing up the Longboat Pass bridge.
It will take years for the Florida Department of Transportation to replace the Longboat Pass Bridge, if ever. But those long-term possibilities, outlined recently at a public forum, haven’t stopped north-end Longboat Key residents from offering their perspectives on what they’d like to see.
Drayton Saunders owns the landmark property at 7300 Gulf of Mexico Drive, overlooking the drawbridge from the east.
“My primary concern is about [the] right-of-way, the impact to our property and any chance it downgrades the value and kind of condition of us being a homeowner next to that bridge,” he said. No further financing or planning is in place.
The study will evaluate through 2022 options for the bridge that links Longboat Key to Anna Maria Island. The possibilities are further renovations to the existing structure, a high-rise fixed span or a lower-rising movable span.
Most recently, FDOT chose a high rise span to replace Cortez Bridge in coming years.
“What I’d like to see happen, as a property owner, is to make sure that those that are most affected by it have a chance to have input and understanding of the design process and options, specifically, as it relates to the impact on the property owners,” Saunders said.
The Longboat Pass Bridge was built to last 50 years in 1957. Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson Brian Rick said the drawbridge undergoes weekly maintenance by crews to grease the locks and gears, check lights and operations. Routine maintenance work is also performed each year.
Last month, the state started collecting feedback from the community on what specifically to do. Tom Freiwald submitted a letter on behalf of the LBK North community group, acknowledging any plan was a tricky needle to thread. The right of way on the Longboat side straddles the path of Gulf of Mexico Drive, allowing for some leeway to the east or west for the approach to a new bridge.
“If the new bridge is built either to the east or to the west of the old bridge, it really gets to be a problem for the residents on either side,” Freiwald said. “Our little group was talking about [how] the safest thing to do is keep the landing where it is now because that way you wouldn’t have to disturb any houses, you wouldn’t have to erect the sound barrier and people are used to having the bridge where it is.
“But the concern was, if we get into a situation where you’ve got half the residents promoting an east bridge and the other half promoting a west bridge, there’s going to be winners and losers. And, we don’t want to have that happen on Longboat.”
LBK North co-chair Maureen Merrigan said LBK North understands there will be some back and forth between FDOT and the public. She said LBK North wants to see the state do the following:
- Keep the same landing onto Longboat Key.
- If there are plans to build a fishing pier with an old bridge, to do it off Coquina Beach and not Longboat Key. There is more public parking at Coquina Beach compared to the northern end of Longboat Key. However, there are about 30 public parking spots available at 100 North Shore Road.
- Widen lanes along the bridge for better pedestrian and bicycle access.
Merrigan also brought up the possibility of the state finally building a roundabout at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway.
“It’s super dangerous if you’ve crossed over there,” Merrigan said. “I mean 80% of our population is [older than] 60 years old here, so not everyone’s jogging across the street.
“You’ve got people bringing beach chairs that are not super quick going across the road, you’ve got people going with bicycles that are trying to go up that hill and go across that road, you’ve got people pushing kids in a stroller that are visiting here.”
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