If you were caught off guard this week by the sudden southbound lane closure on the Green Bridge, you weren’t alone.
Motorists and city officials alike were surprised by the sudden closure that came without notice.
As actor Strother Martin first made famous in the 1967 classic “Cool Hand Luke” starring Paul Newman, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
The Florida Department of Transportation failed to notify the cities and the public of its last-minute decision. That left drivers heading southbound from Palmetto to Bradenton over the Green Bridge on Monday facing longer-than-usual delays.
And it’s going to last for the next two months.
“As work began on the Green Bridge project, the decision was made to close the outside southbound lane of the Green Bridge, for worker, pedestrian and driver safety,” said Zachary Burch, Florida Department of Transportation communications manager. “The lane will remain closed for up to two months while work is completed. Every effort will be made by the contractor and FDOT to reopen the lane as quickly as possible.”
The Green Bridge work is part of a seven-month, $1.5 million intersection improvement project at Third Avenue West and Ninth Street West. The work includes widening the walking trail on the bridge, reducing the lanes and medians on Ninth and adding a dedicated southbound right-hand turn lane at Third Avenue.
FDOT stated prior to work beginning that no daytime lane closures would take place other than on Third Avenue, which is currently closed east of Ninth Street. The closure not only caught motorists off guard, but city officials as well.
“We were surprised,” Palmetto Public Works Director Allen Tusing said. “We were under the understanding that there would be no daytime lane closures and the commission talked about it (Monday) night. We had some issues, especially in the morning where the two lanes merge into one creating that choke point. Any time you merge two lanes into one, you are going to have some backups.”
So far, the only problems have occurred in Palmetto at the choke point. Traffic seems to disperse well over the bridge and quickly returns to two lanes on the Bradenton side, where normal congestion occurs.
“The first few days are always the worst,” Tusing said. “Everybody is trying to figure out what’s going on or how to get around it, but it smooths out after a while. I guess the improvements will be worth it in the long run so you have to deal with the inconvenience for now, but this is an inconvenience we didn’t expect.”