BRADENTON - At a work session on Wednesday, the Bradenton City Council talked about the importance of getting the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to discuss the possibility of building a third bridge over the Manatee River, or conversely, rejecting that option in favor of enlargening the Desoto Bridge, and creating more overpasses in Bradenton and Palmetto, in order to accomodate more traffic. City Clerk Carl Callahan and Director of Public Works Claude Tankersley spearheaded the discussion; Mayor Wayne Poston was absent. As it was a work session and not a meeting, no policy decisions were made.
|The Desoto Bridge|
The bridge discussion was premised on the argument that more roadway space across the Manatee River is needed in order to accomodate continued growth in the Sarasota-Tampa Bay region and the increasing traffic that has come with it.
An idea that has been in contention and put off since 1972, the issue of whether to build another bridge over the river was something that many council members argued could not be shelved any longer, while commuter traffic continues to increase. In a presentation provided by Mr. Tankersley, it was estimated that traffic over the bridges would increase by over 70 percent by 2030, as cited by a downtown mobility study report.
Mr. Tankersley expressed support for a third bridge, saying it would distribute traffic more effectively and would be less opposed by the community than the construction of flyovers near the river. Mr. Callahan advised that public discussions and citizen surveys showed support for a new bridge over its alternative, and that the two options would cost taxpayers roughly the same amount of money (about $150 million).
Councilman Gene Gallo disagreed that a third bridge would be less disruptive. "My knee jerk reaction to it would be the widening of Desoto bridge would be a better solution than going and disrupting more neighborhoods with another bridge," he said.
In turn, Councilman Patrick Roff said more overpasses would "kill two parts of our downtown area that we would have to build upon", and that their construction would make the area "look like Oakland." Roff noted that, "Hardly any people believe these flyovers are a good idea. Not only are they expensive, they are putting traffic on the same load."
Despite disagreements on the direction the region should take to lessen traffic congestion, the session seemed to give the council momentum in getting the MPO to move forward with the issue, as opposed to putting it off while the problem continues to grow.