MANATEE - Manatee Board of County commissioners today approved the concept of a two-lane Fort Hamer Bridge that Manatee County Public Works Department says can be built for less than $30 million.
On a 6-1 vote, the board directed Public Works to return in three months with a set of criteria for the bridge to be designed and built through the public bidding process, known as a request for proposal. The new plan eliminates the need for a six-lane, $130 million toll span to connect roadways across the Upper Manatee River, according to a county news release.
Public Works Director Ron Schulhofer proposed the scaled-down version of the bridge – two lanes instead of six – that will accommodate East Manatee traffic for several years until the bridge needs to be widened to four lanes.
“(A two-lane bridge) would put the least impact as possible on environment,” Schulhofer said. “It would be less intrusive on neighbors. It’s financially feasible and local folks could (build) it.”
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Once complete the Fort Hamer could shave seven critical minutes for emergency responders delivering patients from North Manatee to Manatee Memorial Hospital or Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.
Schulhofer said the work could be done for less because fewer lanes are planned; construction costs for materials are lower and because competition between bidders will ensure a lower price.
“I’ve always said we need a bridge to diversify our road system,” said county Commissioner Ron Getman, a former Florida Highway Patrolman. Later he added that the bridge is sorely needed and it “will be very important as a hurricane evacuation route, as well. It provides an alternative way to go north or south without having to get to the interstate.”
Construction of the bridge eventually will be put out for a competitive bid, but county staffers believe the work can be done for about $28.4 million.
For more information on Fort Hamer Bridge, call Manatee County Public Works Department at (941) 708-7480 or click on Public Works under the Departments tab online at www.mymanatee.org