MANATEE -- The two drawbridges leading to Anna Maria Island may soon open less frequently.
As a way to address traffic congestion, the Cortez Bridge and Anna Maria Island Bridge may have less frequent drawbridge openings. Instead of opening every 20 minutes, they would open every 30 minutes.
On Monday, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the changes to the drawbridge operations schedules. The MPO will send a letter to the U.S. Coast Guard, which regulates the opening schedules, asking it to approve changing the schedules to every 30 minutes year-round.
Michael Howe, MPO executive director, said the MPO discussed the issue about eight years ago and changed the openings from a 20-minute opening schedule to a 30-minute opening schedule during
But due to "more intensive seasonal traffic we are all experiencing in our area," they are recommending the full-time change, Howe said.
"Traffic congestion and delays on roads serving these barrier island communities have increased and are no longer simply seasonal in nature," the resolution reads.
In the request to the Coast Guard, the MPO is also asking that all island communities of Manatee and Sarasota counties that are served by drawbridges be examined to "help alleviate vehicular traffic congestion," according to the resolution.
The resolution also calls for the Coast Guard to "consider further restricting bridge openings during peak traffic periods for special events and on major holiday weekends."
Also on Monday, the MPO adopted the Fiscal Year 2015-16 through Fiscal Year 2019-20 Transportation Improvement Plan, which includes roadway improvements, transportation alternatives and bridge, safety and public transportation projects.
In an effort to expedite some of the projects on the five-year work program, MPO approved sending a letter to Florida Department of Transportation to look into an advanced funding program, which allows local jurisdictions to pay for a project and be reimbursed by FDOT in the year the project is scheduled.
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant asked Bradenton to consider doing this for the additional turn lanes planned at the Green Bridge.
"That is so key to Palmetto and Bradenton and that congested area," she said. "That is a really difficult situation for us all to deal with."
Bryant said she gets a complaint at least every day about the congestion there.
Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said it was beneficial before it went away.
"It is a good program and hopefully we will consider it," she said.
Howe called it a "very valuable program."
"It allowed communities to respond to local needs that are critical to them," he said.
Also on Monday, the MPO unanimously approved the appointment of David Hutchinson, MPO planning manager, as the new executive director, effective Sept. 1, following Howe's retirement.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.