Bill Campbell, who has lived along the Braden River for nearly 40 years, says he knows the bridge planned as part of the 44th Avenue East extension project is inevitable, but when he saw a barge on the river this week, it was still an ominous sign.
“It is the reality,” the East Manatee resident said. “There are a lot of folks out here that have lived out here and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It is going to go away no matter how they sugarcoat it. It is sad.”
The barge is likely part of the work engineering consultant AECOM of Sarasota is doing in designing the bridge over the Braden River, which is one of two bridges planned as part of the 44th Avenue East project, according to Sia Mollanazar, Manatee County deputy director of public works.
The other bridge planned for the project, which will connect Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, is over Interstate 75.
“If they commission a barge to do testing, they don’t report that to us,” he said. “The engineer’s task was to go design the bridge.”
Campbell, whose property on 41st Avenue East abuts the Braden River, said he, like many people, will be directly affected by the bridge.
“It is pretty depressing,” he said. “We are doom and gloom. We know it is coming.”
For the last year, the Braden River bridge has been in the $3 million design phase, which could be completed within the next 12 months, according to Mollanazar. The entire project will cost nearly $130 million to complete.
“We are hoping to be in construction by next year, but that all depends on land acquisition,” he said. “We will be on the south side of the existing power line that crosses the river.”
When complete, most of 44th Avenue East will be a four-lane divided roadway with landscaped medians, bike lanes and sidewalks. The 44th Avenue East extension has been on the books since the 1989 county comprehensive plan, but the public really saw work beginning around 2006, according to Ron Schulhofer, county public works director.
“This is one of the legs that is remaining,” Mollanazar said of the bridge over the Braden River. “One is this one and one is across I-75, both in design. It is an east-west thoroughfare.”
With respect to the bridge’s final design, Campbell said he hopes the county takes into account environmental and traffic impacts to both sides of the river.
“There is no doubt they are going to be impacting wetlands,” he said.