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Not including flyover lanes on DeSoto Bridge replacement would be long-term folly


On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Transportation held a public hearing on the DeSoto Bridge Replacement Project. During the hearing, FDOT’s preferred replacement strategy was presented to the public. After years of painfully slow-moving discussions, the proposed design was quite underwhelming.

The current DeSoto Bridge was constructed in 1957. It provides 40 feet of vertical clearance over the river and has four lanes, two in each direction. As anyone who uses it during the business day knows, its ability to move traffic through the central corridor is limited, to say the least.

As study after study has demonstrated, around 35 percent of the trips that are made over either bridge in the corridor do not originate or end in Manatee County. The downtown bottleneck is exacerbated by a lack of capacity for east/west traffic moving in from or out toward the interstate or its many off-exit destinations.

In the past, we had the chance to secure key downtown right-of-ways that could have significantly improved the traffic flow. The resulting east-west flyover lanes could have helped alleviate the choke points where many cars are trying to turn north from both directions toward the bridges.

Unfortunately, these opportunities were missed. So, when potential designs over the past five years of the study included a graded separation that would allow traffic heading north or south of the central corridor to pass over the top of the downtown choke points, there were reasons to believe that things would be different this time around. This is the rendering FDOT provided when explaining the concept back in 2017.

However, the preferred design that the agency presented on Tuesday does not include the flyover lanes. Instead, it maintains the same two lanes in each direction while focusing on improving multimodal transportation by adding two 12-foot shared-use paths for bikes and pedestrians. While I’m all for the shared-use paths, making it easier for people to walk or ride their bikes over the bridge is not going to impact congestion.

Considering all of the density currently being added to the central corridor, even adding flyover lanes would likely only keep up with the added demand that will have been created by the time the new bridge is completed. Instead, the replacement bridge will only match the current capacity, and that will be after traffic is limited to one lane in either direction for much of its construction.

Traffic gridlock has gone from a barely mentioned phenomenon a couple of decades ago to the number one quality-of-life issue our residents complain about. When you consider that we have been steadily increasing the approval of new development proposals that will enter the pipeline, it is even more clear that bold, innovative solutions are necessary. There is still time for citizens to let FDOT know what they would prefer. Click here to submit a comment to the agency.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.


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  • sandy

    I agree. There will be no change to the gridlock coming off the bridge to downtown Bradenton or simply heading south past downtown. The bike/pedestrian lane is nice, but won't help drivers. Need the flyover to bypass those wanting to head west on Manatee Ave W or those heading east on 6th St W. With no bypass will still have traffic backed up to make those right or left turns.

    Saturday, May 4 Report this

  • AllForOne

    The current FDOT's obsession with pedestrian/bicycle lanes is beyond comprehension. This mode of transportation is a minuscule percentage of the trips and with the heat and humidity in Florida, it will never become a significant factor for roadways such as this.

    Sunday, May 5 Report this

  • nellmcphillips

    Spot on Mitch! Everyone should submit this editorial as their comment on this FLDOT proposal.

    Sunday, May 5 Report this

  • David Daniels

    When I came to Florida in 1986, I lived in Naples for a year. For decades, Naples and Collier County were the fastest growing communities in Fl. A few years ago, I went back to Naples for two weeks. I quickly realized that the intersections that were chokepoints back in the late 80's now had these flyover lanes. It made a huge difference.

    Sunday, May 5 Report this

  • pattybeenutty

    This town needs the flyovers. There is no need to continue the two lanes in each direction. What are these civil engineers thinking? Is Tallahassee controlling our roads?

    Sunday, May 5 Report this