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Planning for Sunshine Skyway Bridge half-marathon continues

Planning continues on a proposed New Year’s Day half-marathon race across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge into Palmetto. The race still needs one final municipality to take ownership of the event before FDOT will consider approval. A request to Manatee County to just that is coming in the near future.
Planning continues on a proposed New Year’s Day half-marathon race across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge into Palmetto. The race still needs one final municipality to take ownership of the event before FDOT will consider approval. A request to Manatee County to just that is coming in the near future. Bradenton Herald file photo

Planning continues for a proposed half-marathon across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on the morning of New Year’s Day.

Besides the necessary approval from the Florida Department of Transportation to close the bridge from 6 until 9 a.m. on Jan. 1, the sole municipality left to consider approving the event is Manatee County. Other municipalities that would be affected by the closure have already written letters of support and Palmetto approved a special permit in early June to close city streets leading to the event finale in Blackstone Park.

Palmetto stopped short of taking responsibility for the race, however, and at least one municipality must do so before FDOT will consider the permit. That’s where Manatee County comes into play. Race organizer Shane Henry said his team is doing everything to provide county commissioners with enough information before making a final plea.

“We are going through the permitting process to get them as much information as possible to make their decision,” Henry said. “We are trying to move this along as fast as we can,” noting that he has not yet scheduled a presentation to the county.

Joe Tanner, president of the Bradenton Runner’s Club who has participated in runs across the globe, said in June that the Skyway run would be “unique and special,” something his club runners truly enjoy.

The proposal drew quick response across social media with many voicing opposition.

“This is a ridiculous idea,” wrote Brent Clark on Facebook. “Do not close interstates to allow a pedestrian event to take place. Interstates are for vehicular travel and will have a negative impact on commerce and other working people needing to travel the interstate and bridge.”

But most responses were positive.

“They close roads in major cities for road races all the time,” writes Jennifer Ryan. “They have contingency plans. Also, the bridge closes when there are storms or high winds. So what’s the problem having a planned closing for a few hours on a Sunday morning?”

And others are just excited for the festivities involved.

“No, I won’t run it, but I’ll to the after party,” wrote Jennifer Holmes.

If approved, a festival complete with vendors and live music is planned for the race’s end in Blackstone Park with all festivities wrapping up around noon. The bridge would reopen around 9 a.m. and organizers plan to reimburse the state for lost tolls. Studies show that traffic on the Skyway is light on New Year’s Day mornings.

The 13.1-mile race would begin at 6 a.m. in the southbound rest stop at the north end of the bridge and continue over the bridge into Palmetto where runners would be directed into the city and finish at Blackstone Park.

Organizers estimate the race would draw more than 5,000 runners and raise $125,000 for local charities.

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