MANATEE -- Two of seven Manatee County commissioners Tuesday declared they oppose a high, fixed structure to replace the small-scale Cortez Bridge, saying they feared it would destroy the historic fishing village nearby.
"I've always been really opposed to a high bridge," said County Commissioner John Chappie, who added such an oversize bridge "would be a disaster" for the quaint Village of Cortez.
Chappie, who represents the county commission district where the Cortez Bridge is located, was joined in opposition by Commissioner Carol Whitmore.
"I would never support a high-level fixed bridge," she said during the meeting where Florida Department of Transportation engineers reviewed a study outlining various bridge repair, rehabilitation or replacement options.
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The bridge linking Cortez Road, or State Road 684, to Anna Maria Island is deteriorating.
FDOT officials reviewed the findings of a $1.5 million project development and environment study underway by consulting firm Atkins North America Inc.
The study will help officials decide among eight possibilities ranging from the cheapest "no-build" option costing $9.7 million to the most expensive mid-lev
el drawbridge option costing $96.5 million.
Deciding which type of two-lane bridge works best will be done jointly between FDOT experts and Manatee commissioners, said FDOT senior project manager Tony Sherrard.
The existing elevation of the bridge deck is 26-foot-2-inches, a low-level bridge would be 32 feet, a mid-level would be 52 feet and a high-level fixed bridge would top 75 feet, said Sherrard.
Construction could take from 18 months to two years, said Douglas Reed, Atkins senior project manager.
Construction money has not been allocated, and completion, even in the best-case scenario, might not be until 2019 or later, officials said.
In other action Tuesday:
Commissioners declined to reconsider their decision to set a public hearing for Oct. 7 to discuss renewing $140 million worth of solid waste franchise agreements with current haulers, rather than opening the process to other bidders.
Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she denied accusations she was selling out to "special interests."
It is "very, very wrong" to accuse the board of such things "just because we didn't vote the way somebody wanted us to," she said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.