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More than 100 residents of Tara, University Place and neighboring communities sported red shirts at the May 24 to show their opposition to the Tara Bridge project.
East County Wednesday, Jun. 1, 2016 5 years ago

Tara Bridge conversation reignites

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Commissioners indicate funding for the project won't be available any time soon.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Should Manatee County extend Tara Boulevard southward to provide another north-south connector, or should it scrap plans for the Tara Bridge?

More than 100 East County residents piled into the standing-room only Manatee County Commission Chambers May 24 to speak on the topic. The item had been slated for the agenda, but was later removed. Commissioners instead plan to discuss the bridge’s future during their capital improvement plan workshop June 16.

Wearing red T-shirts, residents of Tara, University Park and other neighboring communities said the bridge would be out of place, would hurt property values and would compound traffic congestion issues near The Mall at University Town Center, among other concerns.

“Tara Boulevard is not the right street for this project,” Tara resident Sandy Gilbert said.

Proponents of the bridge, wearing hunter green shirts with white lettering “Build Tara Bridge Now,” said the bridge would provide a safer driving alternative to Interstate 75 and would improve emergency response times.

“I believe having a bridge and having the accessibility to the firehouse and the ambulance services on the other side would be a benefit,” River Place resident Kent Haas said.

The project has been in the county’s plans for decades, but, simply put, county officials removed it from plans at one time, then placed it back and then took over the last bit of property needed for the project by eminent domain June 19, 2012. However, county commissioners say the project is not a priority for the near future.

Commissioners told the audience it will be important for them to focus on one major transportation improvement project at a time, because building roadways in pieces adds significantly to costs. 

“We’ve made 44th Avenue a priority,” Commissioner Betsy Benac said of the project, which will connect Cortez Road in the west to Lorraine Road in the east. “We’ve got to get 44th done before we talk about spending more funds.”

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh agreed.

“I cannot look at my constituents and say we’ll never build the Tara Bridge,” she said. “Right now, we don’t have the funds. We’ve committed millions upon millions for 44th. There’s a lot of need in this county.”

The County Commission’s capital improvement plan workshop is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. June 16, in the fourth-floor Manatee Room of the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

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