Fort Hamer Bridge project moves forward

PARRISH — Heavy rains made a mess of the Fort Hamer Bridge site during the past month, and complicated several other local road construction projects.

Even so, bridge crews, which previously poured two sets of piers extending to the water’s edge on the north side of the Manatee River, drove their first piles in the stream during the past month, said Trudy Gerena, spokeswoman for the project.

Beams for the bridge were delivered this week and were being installed Thursday on top of the first two piers.

“The beams range in size from 130 to 145 feet and weigh up to 83 tons. There will be a total of 90 beams used in the construction of the bridge,” Gerena said.

Associated with the bridge project are improvements to Fort Hamer Road and Upper Manatee River Road.

Work on Fort Hamer Road includes installing drainage pipe south of Old Tampa Road, installing sod, and utility work.

Crews are also clearing brush for Upper Manatee River Road to the south bank of the river.

Rains also affected the pace of work on two unrelated East Manatee road projects, including the 44th Avenue extension from Bradenton to Lakewood Ranch.

The much-anticipated groundbreaking ceremo

ny for the $74.5 million “diverging diamond” project at I-75 and University Parkway, the first of its kind in Florida, was delayed by seemingly endless rain.

A measuring station on Natalie Way in East Manatee recorded 8.43 inches of rain in July, and 3.62 inches so far in August, said meteorologist Tom Dougherty of the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport recorded a little less rain, 6.81 inches in July, compared to the normal of 7.98 inches. So far in August, the airport has recorded 2.95 inches of rain, a bit less than the normal of 3.32 inches.

Construction of the $32.69 million Fort Hamer Bridge project is expected to be completed by early 2017.

The two-lane bridge will have bike lanes, a sidewalk on the east side and turn lanes at the north and south approaches.

Fort Hamer Road and Upper Manatee River Road will have paved bike lanes, sidewalks, grass shoulders, right- and left-turn lanes, and be widened to 24 feet.

Rain days are built into the bridge and 44th Avenue extension project contracts. Weather is not expected to materially affect the completion schedule.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter