The Florida Department of Transportation recommends a 65-foot-high fixed bridge to replace the Cortez Bridge.

FDOT’s six year project development and environmental study concluded last month, with the recommendation to replace the aging Cortez Bridge connecting mainland Manatee County to Anna Maria Island.

Priorities and Research

In an engineering report that consisted of over 200 pages the FDOT staff pointed out that The Cortez Bridge, constructed in 1956, needs to be replaced due to “structural and functional deficiencies.” Within their recommendation, a 35-foot drawbridge alternative is purposed, although this bridge could cost up to an additional $24 million to construct and wouldn’t allow boats of all sizes to pass underneath. According to FDOT, the 65-foot fixed bridge would not only be cost effective but would also allow 98% of boats to pass safely underneath without having to hold up traffic. FDOT maintains the prioritization of safety, cost and walkability when considering both designs.

Locals Opinion

Although, prior research supports FDOT’s recommendation, showing most surveyors would agree with the taller bridge, there are some locals that are skeptical. Bob Woodson, Co-Owner of Tide Tables restaurant in Cortez, understands the need for the new bridge, but is concerned that the new configuration could steer potential customers away. On the other hand, county Commissioner Carol Whitmore voices her concern for local businesses and the integrity of the island, stating that this bridge could destroy the character of the 160-year old fishing village. Whitmore has expressed that she would like to change the FDOT’s recommendation, proposing FDOT build a 45-foot bridge, that would be less obtrusive for the island and local businesses. The county Commissioner is hoping the board is able to persuade the state legislators to hear them out as they have in previous situations, providing the example of the diverging diamond on University Parkway.

FDOT staff have already begun designing the new bridge, and with any bridge that is decided upon, the construction will inevitably have a profound effect on the area.