Crane operators for Fort Hamer Bridge contractor Johnson Brothers were driving piles this week near the south shore of the Manatee River, the deepest part of the channel.
Construction of the $23.5 million bridge, which started in March 2015 on the north shore of the Manatee River and gracefully curves toward the south shore, should be completed by August, project manager Tom Charles said.
“It’s starting to take shape. We are getting there,” Charles said.
Just five of the bridge’s 18 spans remain to be completed. They include two of the longest at 144 feet each and three of the shortest at 100 feet each.
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Work on the south approach to the bridge from Upper Manatee River Road is being completed, and the detour signs along that road are now gone, he said.
Cost of improvements to Upper Manatee River Road total about $2.7 million. Improvements to Fort Hamer Road cost $6.5 million. Cost of the bridge and associated road improvements total $32.69 million.
Still to be completed along Upper Manatee River Road are curbs and sidewalks.
Concrete barrier walls have been installed along most of the completed portion of the bridge and await the addition of guard rails. An overlook, or rest area, now awaits future pedestrians and cyclists who want to pause to look at the river and marsh to the east.
The bridge is close enough to completion that several county commissioners have individually visited the construction site, including Betsy Benac and Carol Whitmore, project spokeswoman Trudy Gerena said.
Construction vehicles can now drive along about 1,500 feet of bridge deck, with another 200 feet of decking moving toward completion soon. At completion, the bridge will be about 2,318 feet long.
The two-lane bridge and road project will include paved bike lanes, improved shoulders, a sidewalk on the east side, and turn lanes at the north and south approaches. A traffic signal has been installed on the south side of the bridge at the intersection of Upper Manatee River Road.
Ben Jordan, president of the Parrish Civic Association, has said that 10K and 5K races are planned across the bridge when it is completed.
The new bridge will provide the first direct north-south connection between Lakewood Ranch and Parrish.
For more information, visit forthamerbridge.com.