Meeting on Cortez Bridge replacement to be held Aug. 31st
CORTEZ – The stage is set for the final showdown on the future of the Cortez Bridge.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has scheduled a final Project Development and Environment meeting on the 60-year-old drawbridge on Thursday, Aug 31, at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W. in Bradenton. The hearing starts at 5 p.m. with message boards and maps and project officials who will be available to answer questions. Around 6 p.m., there will a video and more questions. Attendees will have the opportunity to express their preferences.
A four-year history
FDOT began collecting information on the future of the bridge in 2013 when staff members manned at a booth at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Feb. 16 and 17. They collected 168 opinions at the festival. Fifty-six percent wanted to rehabilitate the bridge, and 36 percent wanted to replace it.
FDOT held a public kickoff meeting on April 30, 2013. About 170 people attended the three-hour open house at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church.
Staff discussed project issues using aerial photographs of the existing bridge and the surrounding study area. A video explained the study process.
FDOT distributed surveys by U.S. mail and received almost 850 completed surveys. They also received 38 written comment sheets, letters and e-mails through the study website. The results of the completed surveys received in April and May indicated:
- 51% favored further rehabilitation of Cortez Bridge
- 43% favored replacement of the bridge;
Of those in favor of bridge replacement:
- 38% preferred a high-level fixed bridge;
- 19% opted for a mid-level drawbridge;
- 33% wanted a low-level drawbridge;
- 4% favor another option such as a tunnel or another bridge to Longboat Key.
At an alternatives public meeting on Aug. 28, 2014, at St. Bernard Catholic Church, in Holmes Beach, 87 people attended and 60 responded to a questionnaire. Eleven percent wanted to repair the bridge, 23 percent wanted to rehabilitate it, while 72 percent favored replacing it. Preferences for a replacement bridge were 16 percent for a low-level drawbridge, 33 percent for a mid-level drawbridge and 21 percent for a high-level fixed-span bridge. Nineteen percent wanted another plan, such as a new bridge to Longboat Key.
Fixed span gains fans
It was back to St. Bernard Church for the highway department on Aug. 9, 2016, where 179 people attended another public alternative meeting. FDOT officials stressed the fact that the bridge is rapidly deteriorating. To date, they have received 425 completed comment sheets, and the results are 5 percent prefer a low-level drawbridge, 19 percent favor the mid-level drawbridge and 44 percent want the high-level fixed span. Four percent want a new bridge to Longboat Key.
In the past, residents of Cortez Village have opposed the high-level bridge saying it would be out of character with the village’s cottages. They say the higher bridge would have to be longer than the low-level bridge it replaces, impacting some businesses along Cortez Road.