FDOT invited comments on its work plan in Manatee. Here’s what residents had to say

Several dozen residents showed up Thursday for a Florida Department of Transportation ePublic hearing on its draft tentative five-year work program at Detwiler’s Farm Market on some sorely needed and often controversial road and bridge improvement projects.

The event was called an ePublic hearing because FDOT was encouraging residents to go online to learn more about the projects, which in Manatee County includes Interstate 75 interchange improvements, a potential third bridge over the Manatee River between Bradenton and Palmetto, downtown Bradenton traffic improvements and more.

FDOT community liaison Jesten Abraham was at the entrance to Detwiler’s to hand out copies of the tentative work program and answer questions from residents.

Several of the residents were unhappy with the format of the ePublic hearing and called it a waste of time.

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The Florida Department of Transportation held an ePublic hearing in Palmetto on Thursday to encourage residents to learn about the draft tentative five-year work program and submit comments. Ken Bumgarner of Waterlefe is shown at right. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Bill Horton, a resident of Bel Mare at Riviera Dunes, was most concerned about the possibility that a flyover bridge might replace the DeSoto Bridge between Palmetto and Bradenton. Many residents have previously publicly expressed their opposition to a flyover.

“They have a very bad reputation of making communities go downhill,” Horton said.

Jack Fowell of Ellenton came wanting to know more about the Interstate 75 interchange improvements planned at U.S. 301.

“It’s much needed. I would like to know what is going on and what’s going to change,” Fowell said.

FDOT is planning $190 million in improvements there with construction scheduled to start in the fall of 2019.

Among changes planned at the I-75 intersection are new bridges constructed over the Manatee River to accommodate up to 10 traffic lanes, a new northbound exit ramp and a new southbound entrance ramp.

Ken Bumgarner, chairman of the Waterlefe Community Development District, also came to the ePublic hearing concerned about traffic backups on Upper Manatee River Road, after the construction of the Fort Hamer Bridge.

Traffic often backs up to the bridge from school crossing zones south of Waterlefe, Bumgarner said.

Abraham informed Bumgarner that Upper Manatee River Road is a county responsibility.

Abraham said public input gathered during the ePublic hearings will be used to produce a final tentative five-year work program, which will be presented during the 2019 session of the Florida Legislature.

For more on the tentative work plan, visit swflroads.com. Click on future projects, and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

FDOT will accept comments received by Dec. 28. You can mail comments to L.K. Nandam, P.E., district secretary, FDOT, 10041 Daniels Parkway, Fort Myers, FL 33913, attention Wayne Gaither, Southwest Area office director, or email comments to wayne.gaither@dot.state.fl.us.