A $2 million study commissioned by the Florida Department of Transportation will determine whether the aging Longboat Key Pass Bridge will need to be replaced in the near future.
The drawbridge that connects the southern end of Anna Maria Island to Longboat Key first opened in 1957. In the past 15 years alone, the state agency has spent nearly $10 million on repairs and maintenance. Now, FDOT officials are ready to determine whether an entirely new structure is the answer.
A $5 million structural, electrical and mechanical repair project began on the bridge earlier this summer. Those fixes are scheduled to be completed by early fall.
“One of the challenges of all bridges that are on the water is the corrosive elements of seawater, coupled with weather and usage, and that necessitates maintenance, just like your car, especially in coastal regions,” said FDOT spokesman Brian Rick.
“At some point, we’ve got to look seriously at replacement,” he added.
While FDOT is preparing to hire a consultant for an estimated $2.125 million, Rick noted that the project is still in its infancy, and any replacement bridge — if the study determines one is necessary — is still many years away. In the meantime, residents will be informed of any developments.
“Any and all (Project Development & Environment) studies have public hearings and meetings that will be advertised well in advance,” he said. “This does not happen in the dark.”
For those interested in providing input or learning more about how the FDOT explores bridge replacement options, attendance is vital.
“Learning about a project directly from an engineer is the biggest rumor control that exists,” said Rick. “You’ll learn about the project and you’ll learn about the process.”
The study is expected to begin in February and will take at least three years, according to an FDOT memo. Workshops and public hearings have not been announced. Even if a new bridge to replace the one at Longboat Key Pass is necessary, FDOT’s five-year plan does not yet allocate funding for the next step in the process.
FDOT has also recently considered a 65-foot fixed span replacement for the Cortez Bridge, which drew ire and opposition from residents at a public hearing in April 2018. Those long term plans involve spending more than $1 million on right of way acquisition over the next five years.
The project engineering phase for any changes to the Anna Maria Bridge, which carries Manatee Avenue to the island, is not set to begin until 2022, according to FDOT’s work schedule.