Commissioners gave Town Manager Dave Bullock direction to invite Coast Guard and FDOT officials to a future meeting to discuss bridge openings.
by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor
When New Pass Bridge goes up, and there’s not a boat in the water, Mayor Jack Duncan calls the bridge opening “incredibly frustrating.”
“You have a few boats in the water and thousands of cars backed up on the road, and the bridge opens without a boat in sight,” Duncan said. “It’s counter intuitive.”
2015 traffic counts
The Longboat Key Police Department’s license-plate recognition system has the ability to count the number of cars entering and exiting the island. Below is a snapshot of traffic counts so far this year:
* A camera malfunction caused readings to not be counted for one week.
Key resident and retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steve Branham was asked by Commissioner Lynn Larson and Town Manager Dave Bullock to look into the drawbridge openings on the Key to see if they can be adjusted to ease seasonal traffic. Branham spent months perusing Coast Guard data and crunching traffic count numbers with resident Lenny Landau.
His conclusion at the Sept. 9 Longboat Key Town Commission regular meeting?
“New Pass Bridge and Longboat Pass Bridge are not a primary contributor to the traffic problem,” Branham said. “It’s opening once a day on average when you look at the numbers. It’s very difficult to convince the Coast Guard and FDOT we have a problem with a bridge that averages opening once a day on average.”
But the Town Commission will continue to press the issue, noting the island’s two bridges go up many times just for maintenance and not for boat traffic.
By the Numbers
13 – Cars per minute crossing New Pass Bridge in March 2015
20,000 – Estimated cars per day crossing New Pass Bridge during season
7 – Minutes it takes for bridge to open and close
17 – Steps a bridge tender must follow to open and close the bridge
387 – Openings for New Pass Bridge in 2014
32 – Average openings a month for New Pass Bridge
For the week of Jan. 24 this year, Branham noted New Pass Bridge opened 18 times, but only five of those times were because boats were in the water.
Branham told the Longboat Observer Tuesday that FDOT has agreed not to open the bridge for maintenance from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
“That’s a siginificant amount of time the bridge won’t open for that purpose,” Branham said.
Branham explained it would cost the Coast Guard a premium amount to perform maintenance openings at night instead of during working hours.
The New Pass Bridge opens every 20 minutes when boats are present, which can be up to three times an hour between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m., the bridge must open on signal with at least three hours’ notice. The Longboat Pass Bridge opens on demand for boaters. The Cortez Bridge, which connects Bradenton Beach to mainland Manatee County, opens on demand every 20 minutes between May 16 and Jan. 14 and every 30 minutes on demand from Jan. 15 through May 15.
But Duncan says it’s worth pressing the issue further and even deciding if it’s worth the town helping to pay the extra cost to perform night maintenance openings.
“Motorists get frustrated when they’re sitting and sitting and don’t even see a boat go through,” Younger said.
Commissioners gave Bullock direction to invite Coast Guard and FDOT officials to a future meeting to discuss the issue. http://www.yourobserver.com/article/bridge-openings-don%E2%80%99t-clog-traffic-study-shows
Seventh Coast Guard District