Anna Maria Island Pier reconstruction making progress
With $91.1 billion to go around in the 2019-2020 Florida budget, Manatee County is set to receive major funding for local projects from the state.
Pending Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature, there’s about $22 million coming to the area for various projects, including improved college campuses, funding for the reconstructed Anna Maria Island Pier and the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature.
The biggest appropriation from the Florida Legislature, however, is $10 million for the county’s 44th Avenue East extension. Compared to the estimated total cost of the expansion — nearly $200 million — it’s just a drop in the bucket, but Manatee’s Board of County Commissioners welcomes any help with the much-needed corridor.
The bill hasn’t made it to DeSantis’ desk yet, however, and he could exercise executive power to veto certain line items included in the budget.
“This funding will greatly assist the county in completing this important regional project,” commissioners said in a joint letter to DeSantis supporting the state’s planned expenditure.
The county will use that money to tackle the final segment of the extension, from 45th Street East to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, which is expected to cost $88 million and be completed in 2023.
In an interview with the Bradenton Herald, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh acknowledged that getting the roadway finished would make traveling easier for her constituents in Lakewood Ranch, but it would also alleviate traffic congestion on U.S. 301, U.S. 41 and Interstate- 5 when it comes time for a hurricane evacuation.
On Anna Maria Island, there’s another budget item related to hurricanes. Lawmakers allocated $285,000 toward the reconstruction of the Anna Maria Island Pier, which suffered significant damage at the hands of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, filed an appropriation request for the project, citing its historic value as a “vital component” of the Tampa Bay area. The Manatee County Tourist Development Council also identified the pier as the most visited attraction in the county.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said he worked closely with Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Robinson to request more funding from the state after the Federal Emergency Management Agency lowered their initial offer.
Lawmakers awarded about $850,000 in last year’s budget and tacked on nearly $300,000 more this time around.
“We’re happy about that and obviously construction is already underway,” Murphy said. “The platform will be completed in September and the shell of the restaurant and bait shop will be completed by the end of the year.”
“If you actually want a grouper sandwich, my guess is you’ll have to wait until March,” he added.
The $4.5 million reconstruction project is still set to receive about $1 million in FEMA funding and up to $1.5 million from the TDC.
Bradenton Beach is another Anna Maria Island jurisdiction that will see significant funding assistance from the Florida Legislature. Flooding issues along Gulf Drive South will be addressed thanks to the state’s $2.7 million contribution.
Visitors and residents will tell you how devastating a typical rainstorm can be. Commissioners recently began construction on the revamped Coquina Beach parking lot because of similar flooding concerns.
According to Robinson, the roadway improvements are expected to “eliminate nuisance flooding and ponding on evacuation routes during normal storm events.”
Those stormwater improvements will also prevent direct runoff into local waters, Robinson explained.
“It’ll help water quality out there for sure, and that’s an important issue for that community,” he said.
Bradenton Beach is also expecting to receive another $2 million for multi-modal improvements along Gulf Drive South, where FDOT will install “sustainable alternative transportation modes” in the area. Legislators hope more walking trails in that area will relieve congestion and increase access to dining and shopping in the city.
Lawmakers allocated $500,000 in the budget for Bradenton Beach seagrass mitigation. Port Manatee will receive $1.5 million for the same purpose, in addition to $250,000 for stormwater improvements.
A renovation and addition to the 20,000-square-foot science building at the State College of Florida’s Bradenton campus is also in the cards. The building, which has been in SCF’s master plan since 2010, is set to receive $2 million, which is an additional boost to the $4 million it received last year.
“It’s key, especially as we continue to expand our nursing program and place an emphasis on STEM. All of those classes and laboratories will be in that building,” SCF President Carol Probstfeld said.
Legislators are also set to send a total of $2.1 million to the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) to support Florida residents enrolled at the school.
There wasn’t enough money to go around for Mote Marine’s planned Science Education Aquarium, though, according to Florida lawmakers. Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Sarasota, had filed an appropriations request for $25 million toward the construction of the state-of-the-art facility at Nathan Benderson Park.
The 110,000-square-foot aquarium is expected to cost $130 million. The state’s refusal to contribute money this year leaves a significant chunk of funding out of the equation. Manatee commissioners said in April they also weren’t interested in providing $15 million for the project, which technically sits across the county line in Sarasota.
Downtown Bradenton’s Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, on the other hand, received the $412,000 it asked for to step up the quality of their manatee rehabilitation program.
Museum leaders say those funds will go toward a new mammal rescue vehicle, an emergency generator and improved lighting at the Parker Manatee Aquarium.