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East County Bridge Seems Eminent in CIP Update


BRADENTON -- Questions regarding the authority the current county commission has in making changes to the previously approved Capital Improvement Program (CIP) went unanswered at Tuesday's meeting, as commissioners pushed the more than $200 million in capital improvements projects ahead without much discussion. Manatee County's Capital Improvements Element (CIE) is reviewed annually, and is restricted to the previously-adopted CIP.

One of the most sensitive and expensive construction projects in the county's history is in the CIP five-year forecast. Known as the 44th Avenue extension in east county, it has also been called the road to nowhere. 

The highly controversial project has drawn opponents from residents, who object to the traffic construction and noise; and environmentalists, who claim the proposed Braden River will be adversely effected by the project. 

BOCC members said Tuesday's vote didn't guarantee anything and said those discussions were for later in the permitting process.

The trouble is, by the time those independent issues (more than a dozen 44th Avenue projects) go before the BOCC for approval, more than $100 million will have been spent or obligated to complete the projects.

Trouble is, the Braden River bridge wasn't mentioned anywhere in the proposed CIE, even though the 44th Avenue projects run across the Braden River. There are many residents who don't feel that the bridge is a done deal, and convincing them otherwise may be more difficult than the commission wants to believe.

Already, there is a swell of betrayal being felt by residents who feel somewhat duped with Tuesday's vote. They know that if 44th Avenue is completed, there will have to be a bridge built - unless of course they figure out how to tunnel under it.

Commissioners say there is already more than $50 million invested in the 44th Avenue improvements and if they stopped now, the county will be out of a lot of money. 

I put that dilemma to Cortez resident, Joe Kane, who answered my question with a better one: "Who's fault is that?"

Manatee County resident Mary Shepard also showed a great deal of dissatisfaction with the way the county has been doing business. 

" When I went to a large auditorium out there, there were lots of people against the bridge and road."

Later, after Chairman Bustle tried to hurry her from the podium Shepard added, "I just want the public to know just how expensive this project really is." 


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