MPO OK's $176 million transportation work plan for Manatee

skennedy@bradenton.comDecember 18, 2012 

PALMETTO -- A long-range work plan worth more than $176 million in transportation funding for Manatee County was approved Monday by the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Manatee County representatives succeeded in shifting $5.7 million from a study focusing on replacement of the De Soto Bridge to a more general study aimed at improvements to the U.S. 41/U.S. 301 corridor, north of the Manatee River.

The commissioners requested the change because they believe a complex project design and environmental study for a new bridge is premature, and its huge cost might sap precious transportation money that would be better used elsewhere.

They prefer to focus first on the highway corridor leading up to the bridge, and examine later the expensive issue of what type of new structure might be appropriate.

The MPO board agreed

to replace the new bridge study with a feasibility study focusing on the area along U.S. 41 from Haben Boulevard through the U.S. 41/301 and 10th Street intersections, and east on U.S. 301 to 24th Avenue.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant objected to the removal of money for the De Soto Bridge study, noting that there have been many deaths and accidents on the bridge.

But Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle defended his board's position, and the MPO sided with Bustle.

The Florida Department of Transportation's work program is a five-year listing of all transportation projects planned for each fiscal year.

Among the top projects are improvements for all forms of transportation along the U.S. 41 corridor from Palmetto to Northport.

Other projects include $3.5 million for widening of 15th Street East to three lanes from Tallevast Road to State Road 70; a $2.8 million resurfacing from U.S. 41 (14th Street) to 15th Street East (301 Boulevard); and a $1.4 million resurfacing of State Road 64 from Perico Bay to Palma Sola Boulevard, according to documents from the regional transportation agency.

Also included is $7.7 million for improvements to the intersection of U.S. 41 and Piney Point Road, facing Port Manatee.

Bradenton representative Marianne Barnebey inquired about money for repairs to the Green Bridge, spanning the Manatee River.

She asked whether features benefitting pedestrians and bicyclists, for example, might qualify for funds, and was told that money for "multi-modal" forms of transportation might be available.

The FDOT work program also includes $5 million for repairs to the Cortez Bridge in the area from east of Gulf Drive to west of 127th Street West, slated for 2013-14.

The project is intendedto keep the old bridge, linking the Bradenton area main-land to beach areas, in good condition for another 10years, said MPO Executive Director Mike Howeafter the meeting at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

"Simultaneously, we'll be having public workshops in January and February to discuss what sort of permanent bridge will go in eventually," he said.

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