Bradenton officials are ready to follow in the footsteps of the recently completed beautification projects on the Sunshine Skyway and Ringling bridges with new lights of their own.
Mayor Wayne Poston proposed that Bradenton move toward lighting up the Green Bridge that connects the city to Palmetto with newly installed LED lights. In a discussion with the City Council on Wednesday morning, Poston said it could make the downtown area more attractive.
“We’ve seen what Sarasota did, we’ve seen what the Skyway did. I’d really like to make the Green Bridge green and light it up,” he suggested.
It’s an idea that Poston first kicked around in 2003 but since then, lighting technology has become more advanced and cheaper than ever. LED lights are brighter, more efficient and require less maintenance, making them a cheaper investment over time.
“Back in the day it was an expensive project, but considering what you get with LEDs, it’s inexpensive and low-maintenance,” said City Administrator Carl Callahan.
Council members indicated support for the plan, citing other bridges that are outfitted with lights.
“Tampa’s Riverwalk is lit up and is very nice, too,” said Councilman Patrick Roff.
In recent months, the Florida Department of Transportation has paid for two similar projects in the area. The state agency spent $15 million on the Skyway lighting project, but the installation of 60 lights along the Ringling Bridge in Sarasota, which is more comparable to the Green Bridge, cost just $178,000.
FDOT officials called the Sarasota project, which allows for the LED lights to shine in any color on the spectrum, a “breathtaking upgrade” for residents and visitors in Sarasota County. Bradenton staff are hopeful that FDOT will assist them with a similar state-funded lighting project.
In researching the proposal, Callahan estimates the cost of installing lights on the Green Bridge would be somewhere around $300,000.
Councilman Bill Sanders pointed out that there are other funding sources they could look to if FDOT isn’t willing to foot the entire bill. About a third of the bridge is within Bradenton’s city limits; the rest is in Palmetto.
Sanders suggested that Manatee County officials might also be able to join in on a potential partnership using tourism development funds. County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who chairs the Tourist Development Council, said it’s something that county attorneys could look into.
“It all depends on if it falls within the parameters of Florida law,” Whitmore said of using TDC funds, which are legally restricted to promoting tourism within the county. “I’m glad they’re looking at it, and if the cities and the county have the support of the citizens, we could move forward with some kind of agreement.”
The lighting project would be in line with the city of Bradenton’s ongoing streetscaping project that seeks to improve the walkability and visual appeal of the downtown area.
“Regardless of what you have in a certain location, when you have it lit, people notice and wonder what’s going on over there,” Callahan said.