The Florida Department of Transportation has had a vendetta against Anna Maria Island and its three chartered cities ever since the former mayor of the city of Anna Maria, the late Ray Simches, found out the island had no representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
It took dedication by Simches, former city Commissioner George McKay and Gail Carter to work on a resolution to present to the Board of Manatee County Commissioners and do the fair thing.
Manatee County, Sarasota County, Bradenton, Longboat Key, Venice , North Port, Sarasota, Palmetto and the Airport Authority all had representatives on the MPO. However, AMI had to be satisfied by creating its own Island Transportation and Planning Organization (ITPO) so that the three mayors of the island cities could rotate serving on MPO yearly or a semi-yearly basis. Simches tried many times to get each city represented.
For 20 years FDOT has spent millions on studies, meetings, proposed drawings, etc., for both bridges from the mainland to the island with no solution. There are many old bridges throughout the state of Florida. The oldest bascule bridge in the world is London Bridge, which withstood fires, wars and even time. But the British government and its people want their old bridge, which has become a famous landmark.
The saga of the AMI bridges is a long story. If not for the efforts of Simches, we would be crossing four fixed-span bridges to AMI on Cortez Road and Manatee Avenue.
Sometimes there are just no perfect solutions. Repair, restore and remodel are the best ideas of all.
Katie Pierola, former Bradenton Beach mayor