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Petitioners challenge Cortez Bridge decision

Opponents of the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) plans for the replacement of the Cortez Bridge have filed a petition for a formal administrative hearing before the State of Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings.

The petition is in response to FDOT’s written announcement on Oct. 10 that stated FDOT’s Office of Environmental Management granted location and design concept acceptance for the bridge replacement project that calls for a 65-foot-tall fixed-span bridge to someday replace the aging drawbridge on Cortez Road.

The FDOT acceptance signaled the end of the Project, Design and Environment (PD&E) study phase and allows the project to move into the design phase. Filed in accordance with Florida Statutes, the petition challenges that FDOT acceptance.

Former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash is serving as the qualified representative for the petitioners – a group that also includes former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, Cortez residents Linda Molto and Joe Kane, the ManaSota-88 organization, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

Von Hahmann signed and verified the notarized petition on Oct. 23.