Fort Hamer Bridge work may start in 2015

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 13, 2014 


A view of the Manatee River from the shoreline of Fort Hamer Park near Parrish. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends a new bridge be built linking Fort Hamer Road on the north with the Upper Manatee River Road on the south.GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald


MANATEE -- The design for Manatee County's proposed new Fort Hamer Bridge is 90 percent complete with work slated to start in 2015 pending final permits, a county official said Thursday.

The U.S. Coast Guard has completed its environmental impact statement and a permit for construction should be issued soon, said Sia Mollanazar, county deputy director of public works.

Construction is expected to cost an estimated $21 million to $23 million, he said, following a county commission review of capital improvement projects for next year.

The project still needs permits from the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he said.

Two related projects -- improvements to Upper Manatee River Road from State Road 64 to the future bridge, and Fort Hamer Road from what will be the north end of the bridge landing to U.S. 301 -- could start sooner, before the end of this year, he said.

Work on Fort Hamer Road will consist of functional improvements, shoulder enhancements and adding bike lanes on both sides, plus sidewalk with turn lanes at the existing intersection. The project will cost an estimated $3.2 million, Mollanazar said.

The Upper Manatee River Road project will involve similar improvements at an estimated cost of about $1.1 million, he said.

Transportation impact fees will pay for the bridge while the other two projects are financed by impact fees and gas taxes, said Ed Hunzeker, county administrator.

A new Fort Hamer Bridge connecting Upper Manatee River Road to Fort Hamer Road was the preferred alternative for a new link over the river, according to a study prepared for Manatee County by San Francisco-based URS Corp, the Herald has previously reported. The study concluded a new bridge would improve traffic flow and provide a better north-south route linking high-growth areas east of Interstate 75. It called for connecting the existing two-lane Upper Manatee River Road on the south to two-lane Fort Hamer Road on the north.

In 2009, county commissioners dusted off a 9-year-old bridge plan and voted to move ahead after a tanker truck crash and explosion destroyed I-75's southbound overpass at U.S. 301 in Ellenton, creating several days of gridlock in June 2008.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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