An effort to include in a study the possibility of four-laning a new or rehabilitated Cortez Bridge was nixed Monday by members of the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Phill Younger, an MPO commissioner representing the Town of Longboat Key, suggested that a study underway about the future of the bridge should include the possibility of widening it from its current two lanes to four.
His suggestion hit a buzzsaw of opposition from board members representing both Sarasota and Manatee counties, who finally halted its consideration through a procedural motion.
"It doesn't pass the common sense test," said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, noting that officials from at least four local municipalities that are directly involved were not even at the meeting. "It makes absolutely no sense to leave that part out."
Board members halted discussion of the idea against the wishes of Manatee County Commission Chair Larry Bustle, who also chairs the MPO, a regional transportation planning agency.
Bustle argued that capacity of the bridge "has to be one of the criteria you have to look at" as part of the study, which is now underway under the auspices of the Florida Department of Transportation.
Opponents listed many reasons not to discuss four-laning the bridge, citing in particular the importance of preserving the historic Village of Cortez on its east end.
The bridge linking Cortez Road to Anna Maria Island is deteriorating and needs rehabilitation or replacement, officials said.