In response to Mary D. Harrison’s letter about the Cortez Bridge, the alternative requiring acquisition of Bridgeport condominiums for a retention pond is one of three pond sites the Florida Department of Transportation is studying. We would likely select the pond site located entirely within existing FDOT right-of-way, which is the least expensive option, and no residences would be acquired.
A new bridge to Longboat Key must be prioritized by the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) before FDOT can initiate a study. A new bridge is not in the MPO’s 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan.
Cortez Bridge is showing signs of its age. FDOT completed a major repair project in 2015 to maintain the integrity of the bridge for up to 10 more years. The bridge could be repaired again, but will not last long-term due to corrosion within the bridge components. The bridge remains safe, but lacks modern safety features like shoulders for emergency or disabled vehicles that could impede traffic during an evacuation.
The federal study process for improving Cortez Bridge requires that all viable alternatives be analyzed, from no-build/repair to replacement. FDOT considers comments from the public and stakeholders. The Manatee County commissioners said if the replacement alternative is selected, it should include modern amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians.
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FDOT held public meetings in August 2014 and last month to gather public input. The results of a survey distributed last month show 67 percent of the over 400 responses support replacement of the bridge while 29 percent favor the no build/repair alternative.
A public hearing to present the recommended alternative(s) and gather public input is planned for early 2017. FDOT will make a final decision about the future of Cortez Bridge after that hearing.
Billy L. Hattaway, P.E., District Secretary, Florida Department of Transportation