MANATEE -- The cost of repairing or replacing the aging Cortez Bridge is expected to range anywhere from $9.7 million to $96.5 million, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.
The Project Development and Environment Study, under the auspices of FDOT, will determine the best alternative for the future of the deteriorating bridge.
FDOT's senior project manager, Tony Sherrard, is slated to address the Manatee County Commission to explain the results of surveys about the two-lane drawbridge linking Cortez Road, or State Road 684, to Anna Maria Island.
Engineers are evaluating what should be done to rehabilitate, repair or replace the bridge, built in 1956.
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Eight possibilities were listed, including a "no-build" option costing $9.7 million; a low-level drawbridge, estimated at about $93.5 million; a high-level fixed bridge, at $61.1 million; and a mid-level drawbridge, at $96.5 million, according to an FDOT table.
The study team also considered a tunnel alternative but eliminated it due to its $161 million cost and adverse effects to the natural environment, according to FDOT documents.
The study began in January 2013 and is expected to be finished next summer. "We will have a recommended alternative by the first of the year," Sherrard said Monday.
A public hearing in the spring will finalize public meetings for the study, he added.
At an Aug. 28 public meeting about the project, 87 people attended and about 60 completed comment sheets, according to FDOT documents.
A majority of commenters, about 72 percent, preferred to replace the bridge rather than repair or rehabilitate it; about 34 percent favored repair or rehabilitation.
Of those who chose replacement, 16 percent wanted a low-level drawbridge; 33 percent, a mid-level drawbridge, and 21 percent a high-level fixed bridge.
A no-build, or repair option, would last 10 years; rehabilitation would last 25, and all replacement bridges would last 75 years, according to FDOT.
Those with businesses at the east end of the bridge say they are hoping for something small.
"It can't be any higher than it is," said Capt. Bob Eskew, who operates Blue Water Explorers, which offers daily dive charters and scuba lessons from a dock at the base of the bridge.
"The higher the bridge, the fewer openings," he said. "It's an inconvenience to people in cars.
"I like the way it is," said Eskew.
Chef Marcus Vega, who operates the Tide Tables Restaurant & Marina nearby, is also hoping for something modest.
"No super bridge," said Vega.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.