It floods when it rains at this Anna Maria Island parking lot. County hopes this fixes it

Whose fault is it that the Coquina Beach parking lot floods every single time it rains? The answer is simple, but the solution is costly, county staff say.

To find the culprit, look no further than the Florida Department of Transportation. The state agency didn’t seem to account for Florida rainfall when designing Gulf Drive, which often results in a useless pond of a parking lot.

“Most of the flooding was the the result of FDOT. FDOT’s roadway has no drainage,” Sia Mollonazar, deputy director of engineering services for Manatee County, said at a September work session with county commissioners. “Basically, they used the embankment and the grassy area as a drainage area, and every time it rained, these guys can testify, the whole field became one big lake.”

It’s not a lake commissioners are proud of though, and a $6 million fix is on the way.

“Many of you know it’s been problematic for too long,” Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, told commissioners at a recent meeting.

The issue was previously targeted in the county’s 5-year capital improvement plan, which states that the area is prone to “periodically flood to depths of 6” to 18” during prolonged or high intensity rainfalls.”

According to Public Works Director Chad Butzow, the project encompasses more than just a new parking lot, but will also feature an underdrain system that works in conjunction with permeable concrete to significantly alleviate flooding problems.

“The concrete base is going to be almost identical if you’ve been to Siesta Key,” Falcione said.

About $2 million of the project funding will come from the county’s stormwater operation budget. At an October meeting, the Manatee Tourist Development Council Advisory Board unanimously approved the use of up to $5 million tourism tax dollars to fund the majority of the project.

FDOT isn’t totally off the hook, however. The agency provided about $500,000 toward the project, which will be completed in phases to prevent a total shutdown of the parking area.

“Coquina Beach, for all of you’ve that have lived for many years, it’s a lake every time it rains,” said Commissioner Carol Whitmore. “It’s been a major problem for our tourism, as well as county and people from all over. When it floods, you can’t park there, so that’s been a major issue and this is a way to fund it totally out of tourism tax.”

Commissioner Betsy Benac raised concern over how the pervious concrete design might hold up over the years at the work session. Mike Strum, lead project engineer, assured her that the University of Central Florida’s Stormwater Management Academy has improved the design over the years and, “it has become successful.”

The county is collaborating with the city of Bradenton Beach on the project. That partnership saved them $200,000 in permitting fees, Falcione said. Other improvements included in the parking lot renovation will be multi-modal trails from Bridge Street to Coquina Beach, a sidewalk parallel to Gulf Drive and the addition of striped spaces and parking blocks.