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North-end community raises concerns about new Longboat Pass Bridge

FDOT presented three possible build alternatives to replace the Longboat Pass Bridge. North-end residents are more concerned about the impacts.

An aerial view of the proposed Longboat Pass Bridge solution shows the new bridge would be built to the west of the existing bridge.
An aerial view of the proposed Longboat Pass Bridge solution shows the new bridge would be built to the west of the existing bridge.
Courtesy image
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The new Longboat Pass Bridge alternatives would be built just a few dozen feet away from Carla Smith’s bedroom window. 

Her condo at Northgate is the closest to the proposed bridges. 

She already keeps most of the windows in her house closed in the afternoons. She has to, she said, or else she’ll hear the constant commotion of cars entering and leaving Longboat Key.

Some days, she said the sound is “deafening.” She fears it will only get worse. 

In the proposed bridge plans there’s also a pedestrian walkway, which will be almost at eye level with her window. 

Ben Ghosh feels threatened, too. 

He’s done his homework and marked the bounds of the 76-foot-wide proposed bridge with green tape around Northgate. Seeing the tape, Ghosh thinks that a new Longboat Pass Bridge would impact everyone in his north end community. 

Northgate is one of the northernmost properties on Longboat Key, and it’s home for Ghosh. 

With the Florida Department of Transportation’s proposed bridge projects for the Longboat Pass Bridge, Ghosh fears that his home and neighbors will be impacted. 

The FDOT presented three new build alternatives to residents at a March 14 public workshop. All three alternatives would be about 76 feet wide and built to the west of the existing bridge. One would remove the drawbridge to become a fixed bridge. 

The width of a new bridge would be like the length of two telephone poles. 

The high fixed bridge alternative would be about 78 feet above the mean high water line, tying it for the fifth-highest bridge in Florida

“It’s our home being threatened,” Ghosh said.

But for him, it’s more than just four walls and a roof over his head. 

“It’s always been such an important part of my identity in life,” he added.

Ghosh’s grandfather, Henry Abuza, built the Northgate building in 1978. Now, the property at 490 North Shore Road is home to about nine residents with a total of nine condos. 

Most of the residents have a clear view of Coquina Beach from the back windows of the condos. On that beach, Ghosh married his wife, Amanda Gray. The couple then had their wedding rehearsal dinner in the parking lot of Northgate. 

The view from Carla Smith's window at Northgate. Residents are worried about the proposed bridge alternatives' impact on the community.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer

Like Ghosh, Northgate has a generational history for Smith. 

“This place is very special to me,” Smith said.

She moved to Northgate about 45 years ago when she was 15 years old. Her parents moved the family into the unit in which she lives now and later added a second story. 

It was an investment, she said. One that she hopes she doesn’t have to leave. 

“This is heartbreaking for our families,” Smith said.

Smith now has kids of her own, who are growing the family and hoping to continue the generational history. But Smith said she’s anxious to continue in her condo unit given the project. 

Ghosh and Smith are fond of a small “beach” which is even closer to the bridge. Even with the noises of cars passing on the current bridge, the spot offers a place to enjoy nature and view Coquina Beach. A large tree in the spot frequently makes for nesting grounds for ospreys and bald eagles, according to Ghosh. 

Most of that spot enjoyed by Northgate residents would be gone with a new bridge. 

Need for consideration

The Longboat Pass Bridge is a project that’s been on residents’ minds for a while, according to Ghosh. 

He attended the virtual workshop held on March 12, in which he learned the details of the alternatives. 

Ghosh said the FDOT did not notify residents as to how close the proposed bridge solutions would be to the community. 

Then he attended the in-person workshop on March 14, where he spoke with several FDOT representatives. 

“They were not willing to acknowledge that the proposals had a negative impact on our community,” Ghosh said. “They also offered to provide additional information as a follow-up, which we have not seen.” 

Carla Smith and Ben Ghosh look out of Smith's bedroom window. A new bridge would be closer to her unit.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer

Ghosh and Smith aren’t anti-bridge. But they both said they believe more consideration should be taken into how this project would impact the north end community.

Ghosh also hoped the FDOT would consider the recommendations residents sent in a letter three years ago. 

In April 2021, the Longboat Key North community group sent a letter to FDOT Project Manager Patrick Bateman to “begin a dialogue” about the fact that a new bridge would be located to the east or west of the existing bridge. 

“Both of those options present significant issues, including pedestrian safety, that we believe will result in ongoing, lengthy and unhealthy debate among neighbors/neighborhoods. Sooner or later there will be winners … and losers,” the letter stated. 

Ghosh said he believes this first letter was ignored. 

Co-Chair of Longboat Key North Maureen Merrigan sent another letter to Bateman on March 21, stressing the importance of more consideration. 

While Merrigan is in favor of extending the life of the existing bridge, she said, “If the bridge is to be replaced, only the lower bridge would fit the scale of the community and surrounding areas.” 

“The proposed width of the bridge in each of the new build options is excessive,” she continued in the letter. “The expansive width will increase the cost of the project unnecessarily and impact the vegetation, noise barriers and adjacent residential property.” 

Like Merrigan, resident Jim Haft is also opposed to the highest bridge alternative. 

Haft is on the board of the Land’s End Homeowners Association, a community on the opposite side of the Longboat Pass Bridge. The community includes 14 properties. 

For the Land’s End Community, Haft said most residents favor a lower bridge, rather than the high fixed bridge. 

“For those really close to it, like those at Northgate, they’ll be looking up at this enormous expanse of concrete,” Haft said. “The other issue about the fixed bridge is it's going to be very dangerous for pedestrians and bikers."

With Longboat Key’s median age around 71 years old, Haft said getting up the slope of a high fixed bridge more than 70 feet in the air would present a challenge to many. 

Since the March 14 workshop, Ghosh has attended a Town Commission meeting with his family and invited town officials to see for themselves. Town Manager Howard Tipton, Director of Public Works Isaac Brownman and some town commissioners have visited Northgate since. 

“I was happy with their attentiveness to the issue and the proposed ideas that they suggested,” Ghosh said. 

According to Ghosh, the town officials who visited Northgate offered to facilitate discussions between residents and the FDOT, attend further meetings with Longboat Key North and will be able to take a stance as a town as an opinion for the FDOT. 

Next steps in the process for the FDOT will be to evaluate the comments received from the workshop and residents. Project documents will be finalized and made available for a public hearing tentatively planned for 2025, according to an emailed statement from Bateman. 

“The No-Build Alternative remains a viable option throughout the study process,” Bateman said in the statement. But, the statement also said the no-build alternative could require bridge restoration that could result in temporary bridge closure for a year or more. 

While the project is funded by the FDOT for design in 2026, there is currently no funding for future phases of the project. 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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