BRADENTON – At Tuesday's Manatee County Commission meeting, the board will vote on proposed changes (PDF) to the county's 5-year capital improvement plan. Included in the proposals will be the return of a controversial bridge over the Braden River, connecting sections of 44th Avenue East that are currently separated by water.
If passed, the project would likely be a major surprise to area residents, many of whom opposed a bridge when it was previously part of the county's long-range transportation plan. The project would profoundly alter the character of the area by bringing a sizeable east-west artery to a largely rural area of the county, acting as a potential alternative in some instances to SR 64 to the north, or SR 70 to the south.
Expanding the east-west connectivity could encourage even more development in the area, ultimately even leading to another exchange on I-75, between exits 217 and 220 – along with all of the interstate traffic and commercial development that goes with it.
Some might see this as a boon, while others might see it as sprawl that could impact quality of life in the area, which is why its inclusion amid so little fanfare was somewhat surprising. In fact, the agenda item doesn't even mention the word “bridge.”
“This is a pretty big deal,” said former Manatee County Commissioner and TBT publisher Joe McClash. “It's definitely the sort of thing that you want to have a tremendous amount of public involvement with, and I would bet that a lot of residents have no idea this is being added. The county might be satisfying the public hearing requirement from a technical standpoint, but it seems like a really dishonest way to slip it in there.”
Tuesday's meeting will take place at 9 a.m. at the County Administration Building in downtown Bradenton. It will also be broadcast live on ME-TV (Brighthouse 614; Verizon FIOS 31; Comcast 19) and online on MGA-TV.