Some Tara residents were pleased to learn that a proposed bridge that their community has long fought was again excluded from the five-year capital improvement project list presented to Manatee County commissioners on Wednesday.
Like a ghost, it may come back to haunt them.
The Tara bridge has been on the county's Comprehensive Plan since 1989, and the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization removed and then added the bridge to its list of proposed long-term projects. Over the years, residents have passionately voiced their views on the proposed bridge, with developer Pat Neal even offering to build it.
Nearly 30 years have passed and the bridge has yet to be realized.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore supported the present residents' wishes not to have a thoroughfare connect State Road 70 with Honore Avenue via Tara Boulevard, but it appeared she was outnumbered.
"I know it's going to be unpopular," said Commission Betsy Benac, who kicked off the conversation.
Transportation takes up a large chunk — 43.8 percent — of the government-related capital improvement projects in need of new funding, largely due to the 44th Avenue East project. There are 283 projects detailed in the latest capital improvement program that need a total of $837.2 million in additional funding.
Benac, with Commissioner Robin DiSabatino and Charles Smith, agreed that the county should look into how much a bridge would cost and whether it would actually improve traffic conditions.
"I understand the neighbors don't like it. It was designed as a thoroughfare road. It was always going to be connected," Benac said.
If more interconnections like this aren't made, it increases the need for more six-lane thoroughfares, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker predicted.
Hunzeker said that another thing to consider is the cost of maintaining any new roads that are built.
DiSabatino said State Road 70 is "one of the biggest nightmares," particularly at the Lockwood Ridge Road intersection. She said they should be looking for ways to relieve Manatee County of traffic on its major roadways, like how Sarasota County extended Honore Avenue all the down way to Venice.
"It's meandering," DiSabatino said of Tara Boulevard. "You're not going to be taking it if you want to get somewhere fast. You're going to be taking it as a relief.