MANATEE -- The Florida Department of Transportation will study the viability of relieving traffic congestion between Bradenton and Palmetto by building a third bridge across the Manatee River.
Bradenton Public Works Director Claude Tankersley, who sits on a citizens advisory committee for the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, said FDOT and the MPO have partnered to expand an earlier $3 million study of the main roads in central Manatee, including arteries connecting Bradenton and Palmetto that in recent years have become increasingly congested.
Because of a lot of public comment about the need to build a third bridge -- in addition to the Green and DeSoto bridges -- to alleviate congestion, Tankersley said, "FDOT wants to put this to rest once and for all," to see if it is even possible. If not, he said, FDOT will also look at the possibility of widening the existing bridges.
The study area runs from 17th Street West in Palmetto south to 17th Avenue West in Bradenton; and from 26th Street West in Bradenton east to the Braden River.
"FDOT is looking at short- and long-term plans for the best transportation solutions," said Tankersley. "The study started in July, and FDOT is throwing a lot of talent at this."
FDOT is planning a public input campaign, in which public meetings will be scheduled and FDOT will be reaching out to local governments and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, and putting up informational booths at local events to encourage public input. Meetings with city staff on both sides of the river also will take place.
"So there is a lot of opportunity to get a lot of feedback and that includes business owners through the chamber," Tankersley said.
The expanded study is expected to be concluded by December.
"The initial study was to look at correcting traffic flows in the discussed boundaries, as far as improving those corridors," Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said. "But as it came back, the county contingent wanted to expand portions of it to the boundaries they are talking about now. That discussion helped bring some motivation to look at another bridge or upgrade the ones we have now.
"It's basically a whole new study now," she added.
Robin Stublen, FDOT District One communications specialist, confirmed the Central Manatee Network Alternatives Analysis Study has begun.
"The CMNAA study will define a program of projects that support mobility, accessibility, safety, economic and quality of life goals shared by the city of Bradenton, city of Palmetto, Manatee County and the Sarasota/Manatee MPO," said Stublen. "It will follow and meet all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act process and will develop viable project alternatives that could be implemented immediately or could be advanced to future phases of development."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.