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Ft. Hamer Bridge Safety Concerns Brought Up By Waterlefe Residents at BCC Meeting


MANATEE--Citing safety concerns and the need for mitigation, several residents of Waterlefe development made their case before the board of county commissioners at Tuesday's regular meeting in county chambers regarding the Ft. Hamer Bridge project. Commission Chairwoman Carol Whitmore allowed citizen comments before the board heard a status report on the project from design engineer URS Corporation.

Ken Bumgarner, a resident of Waterlefe presented the BCC with several mitigation requests including a provision for a full median opening at the back gate for residents of Waterlefe. One of the main issues residents have been outspoken about is the back exit from Waterlefe would either be closed once the bridge is completed or have a risky right turn only entrance and exit. "We're not against the bridge being built, but we do want mitigation", he said.

Parrish resident David Payne has been vocal in his concerns for safety during several appearances in county chambers when the Ft. Hamer Bridge has been discussed. On Tuesday, he reiterated that Ft. Hamer Road would need to be fixed before the bridge was built.

Another Waterlefe resident Tom O'Donnell said Ft. Hamer road needed repairs and was unsafe. He asked the board and Commissioner Larry Bustle directly, "What price glory? What happens if the cost doubles or triples?"

Attorney Patricia Petruff, who represents the Waterlefe Community Development District, said, "We're concerned with the larger picture, the impact of bridge traffic near the Waterlefe community."

URS Corp. Engineer Daren Carriere

County Public Works Department Director Ron Schulhofer responded, "Ft. Hamer Road is safe and within county standards", before project engineer Daren Carriere updated the board on the project's design.

Mr. Carriere said there will be dedicated bike lanes leading up to the Ft. Hamer Bridge and modified the project's design to keep as much foliage intact along Waterlefe as possible. There will also be lighting along the north side of the bridge.

URS Corporation is also working with the U.S. Coast Guard in the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) which is the highest level environmental document to ensure proper mitigation. The project is currently in the pre-draft EIS stage. Once that is completed, according to the engineers, it can move forward to a public hearing.

Ron Schulhofer concluded the design update presentation saying the project is approximately five months away from having a final design in place.

During the commissioner's comments portion of Tuesday's meeting, Larry Bustle brought up the idea of putting a toll on the Ft. Hamer Bridge to help pay for the upgrade of Ft. Hamer Road. "Since the bridge is paid for by county impact fees, it is something we should look into", he said. Commissioner Donna Hayes concurred, "People in Orlando are used to paying tolls. It's no big deal. We should take a look at it", she said. County Attorney Tedd Williams said he would need to look into whether the Florida Statutes would allow it.

There was no action by the BCC on the Ft. Hamer Bridge at Tuesday's meeting per recommendation by County Attorney William Clague.

The board did approve a motion by Commissioner McClash to have the FDOT make a presentation regarding the potential replacement of the Cortez Bridge.  

Click here to read the rest of the meeting's results.


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