Cortez Bridge repair won't fix island's traffic problem

October 24, 2013 

This relates to the Sept. 17 Herald article, "People want Cortez Bridge repaired." The article, and another dated Oct. 20, state the bridge is 56 years old.

Since this area has been my family's home since 1850, to the best of my memory, the Cortez and Manatee bridges were both funded by our 1952 Legislature. The Cortez span was started immediately as a toll bridge, whereas Manatee Avenue ceased to exist beyond what is now 75th Street and had to be extended to the bay, a crossing dredged in, then across Perico Island to the edge of (then) Sarasota Bay, before getting built.

From that memory, it was completed about four years after Cortez was finished, circa 56 years ago.

Also, back when almost everyone with a car went "to the beach" every July 4th, the old wooden bridge satisfied our needs. When it was replaced, the new one, with its toll just over 20 cents, was wonderful, but that all began to evaporate around 1989.

Since then the Longboat Key and Coquina Beach traffic, particularly seasonal, have exacerbated the situation every year. As a result, neither the existing nor a replacement Cortez Bridge will ever meet the traffic needs of our infrastructure, which is totally unacceptable.

The 5-mph, bumper-to-bumper northbound daily traffic from the two locations is also a safety hazard to locals from Thanksgiving until after Easter.

When will FDOT and our MPO wake up and understand there is only one solution? Extend 53 Avenue (SR70) across the open field, through the mangrove swamp on the north side of Tidy Island, and after a 5.5 degree left turn, touch down 800 feet north of Longboat Pass Bridge. With four lanes, it would satisfy all of Longboat's needs, including evacuations, and provide direct access to popular Coquina Beach. It would cross the bay in an area where sea grass is minimum, an issue. And, it would grossly minimize wear and tear on the existing Cortez span -- to be repaired now to extend its use for 10 years!

Jim Kissick

Bradenton Beach

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