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Concerns about Longboat Pass Bridge to be addressed in workshops

FDOT will host online and in-person options to allow residents to weigh in on potential roadway alternatives for the future of the bridge.

Longboat Pass Bridge was originally constructed in 1957 and reconstructed in 2005 and 2020.
Longboat Pass Bridge was originally constructed in 1957 and reconstructed in 2005 and 2020.
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Next time you find yourself stuck in traffic on the Longboat Pass Bridge, it might be an ideal time to think about what changes might be needed for the bridge in the future. 

This March, the Florida Department of Transportation is holding public workshops to discuss possible alternatives for the future of the roadway leading from north Longboat Key to Coquina South. 

In February 2020, the FDOT began a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study for State Road 789, also known as Gulf of Mexico Drive (or Gulf Drive for those further north than Longboat Key). 

The $2,125,000 study looks at the road from North Shore Road to the south Coquina Park entrance, about 0.75 miles of the road. The FDOT took on the full cost of the study. 

According to the FDOT website for the project, the study looks at alternatives such as the rehabilitation of the bridge, or a new bridge. Need for the study was based on concerns over the bridge’s deficiencies, safety and “modal interrelationships,” which includes how different modes of transportation interact with each other on the bridge. 

What are the concerns?

Now four years in, the study evaluates bridge replacement options that considered factors such as emergency transportation, bicycle and pedestrian transportation and safety improvements. 

The Longboat Pass Bridge was originally constructed in 1957, then was reconstructed in 2005 and 2020, according to the FDOT website. 

But bridges built around the 1950s were only designed for a 50-year lifespan, according to the FDOT. 

The bridge is now classified as “functionally obsolete,” due to the age and design of the shoulders and traffic barriers on the bridge. 

In 2021 the FDOT fielded comments from citizens and received 139 responses. 

From those responses, there were 21 traffic concerns, 15 safety concerns, 11 bridge height concerns and 18 other, more specific concerns. 

Safety concerns related mostly to bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the bridge. 

There were also 10 supporters of building an alternative bridge, and five in support of no-build alternatives. 

From that survey, the FDOT determined, “the primary public concern is vehicular traffic, second is safety, and third is bridge height in relation to boat traffic.”

Issues were raised such as traffic on and near the bridge as well. The FDOT stated in a presentation after the survey that there did not seem to be a large opposition to constructing a new bridge. 

What is a PD&E Study?

A FDOT article describes a PD&E study as “an environmental and engineering process” that determines multiple effects associated with an enhancement. The study looks at factors like social, economic and physical impacts. 

These studies utilize data from engineers, planners and scientists to analyze the potential impacts on surrounding areas. 

First is data collection, which includes existing characteristics, traffic studies, drainage and population demographics. 

The next step is what the Longboat Pass Bridge study is currently in, which is “Alternatives Development and Analysis.” These alternatives can include both build and no-build alternatives, both of which will be presented at the March workshops. 

The Longboat Pass Bridge study extends from the north end of Longboat (left of map) to the south end of Coquina.
Image courtesy of FDOT

That leads to the third step, which is public information meetings. After the public has an opportunity to give comments about the proposed alternatives, the project team will then go forward and choose the path. 

As of right now, there is no estimated timeline or cost for the remainder of the project, since that is to be determined by the results of the public workshops. 

Next steps

The first public workshop is scheduled for March 12 and will be online-only. Advanced registration is required.

But before that, the FDOT team will post workshop materials so interested residents can review the results of the study so far and prepare questions. Those materials are expected to be posted by March 5. 

Then, on March 14, an in-person workshop will be held at 5 p.m. at Christ Church on Longboat Key. 

As of now, the estimated completion date for the PD&E study is toward the end of 2025. According to the FDOT, after the workshops are completed, then project staff will take feedback from residents and come up with next steps. 



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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