Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Reduce Options on Cortez Bridge | Fixed-Span Alternative Should Be Quickly Eliminated

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Reduce Options on Cortez Bridge | Fixed-Span Alternative Should Be Quickly Eliminated

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

Here is a question we posed in an editorial published in 2011: What moves more slowly than vehicular traffic to and from the beaches and barrier islands during tourist season?

Answer: The process of repairing, designing, planning, funding and building bridges to and from the beaches and barrier islands during tourist season.

On Tuesday in Holmes Beach, the Florida Department of Transportation will conduct an "Alternatives Public Meeting" regarding the 1950s-vintage Cortez Bridge. It is part of a long, ongoing, start-and-stop journey to plan, design and engineer alternatives for the bridge's future -- and obtain public input along the way.

To its credit, the DOT awarded more than $4 million in contracts during 2013-14 for some short-term fixes to the structure. Nevertheless, the low-level drawbridge has structural deficiencies. Its two lanes are incredibly narrow; there are no emergency lanes or even shoulders.

Since the current structure is clearly insufficient in the long term, the department has identified three alternatives:

[broken bar] A drawbridge with a 21-foot vertical clearance. (The current clearance is about 25 feet.)

[broken bar] A drawbridge with a 35-foot vertical clearance.

[broken bar] A high-level, fixed span bridge. (Previous iterations had the span's roadway more than 60 feet above the water.)

The DOT is required by law to consider all the alternatives available. Yet, as we have written previously, it seems clear that the high, fixed-span option should be eliminated as quickly as possible under the law. Doing so would enable the public to debate which drawbridge height would do the most good and least damage.

A mid-range drawbridge, for instance, would eliminate the need for some openings to accommodate marine traffic. The relevant questions are: How much traffic? Would the approaches of a 35-foot bridge damage the communities surrounding the approaches? …

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