Bradenton completes Ware's Creek bridges $1.7M under budget

BRADENTON -- The Ware's Creek bridge replacement projects were completed a year ahead of schedule and more than $1.7 million under budget, Bradenton Public Works Director Claude Tankersley said Wednesday.

The city was required to complete the bridges as part of the $52.7 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood mitigation project to dredge and widen the creek to alleviate flooding in the historic Ware's Creek neighborhood.

Part of the Corps project, between and 17th Avenue West and 21st Avenue West, remains almost a year behind schedule due to a dispute with a contractor.

The city completed its final bridge replacement in December with the opening of the 17th Avenue West bridge. It had previously completed bridges at Ninth, 12th and 14th avenues west.

The city secured a 50 percent match from the Southwest Florida Water Management District and funded the remaining half through a Florida Department of Environmental Protection low-interest loan. Tankersley said the city was able to return $872,500 to Southwest Florida Water Management District.

"More importantly, it means the city did not need to borrow the matching $872,500 from the FDEP," he said.

The city budgeted $8.2 million for the project, which included 20th Street West drainage work. The project, completed in December, cost $6.87 million.

While the city portion has been successful, the project as a whole continues to be delayed after a contractor working on the portion between 17th Avenue West and 21st Avenue West walked off the job and was subsequent

ly fired.

The Corps has declined to discuss the dispute. A Corps spokeswoman for the project did not return a call requesting an updated timetable.

Project effectiveness

By most accounts, dredging and widening the creek has reduced flooding, but officials acknowledge the creek has not been really tested with serious rain. Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo has been critical because the project did not include work at the mouth of Ware's Creek where it meets the Manatee River.

"The project is called flood relief, but citizens need to understand that does not mean it will stop flooding on Ware's Creek," Gallo said during a Bradenton City Council meeting Wednesday. "We have a project that will eliminate half the flooding and to me that means people who were getting 20 inches of water in their homes will get 10 inches of water. That doesn't give me a good feeling."

Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff, who represents the Ware's Creek neighborhood, said the obvious waterflow problem has been addressed.

"We will see how the flooding works," he said. "I have full confidence in the engineering of this project."

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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