New bridge recommended at Ft. Hamer in Manatee County

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MANATEE COUNTY - A proposal that would make driving between East Bradenton and Parrish faster and easier is being met with opposition. Environmentalists say the U.S. Coast Guard's proposal to build a new bridge across the Manatee River would destroy wetlands and damage the river's quality.

That bridge would run from the end of Ft. Hamer Road on the north side, across the Manatee River, and connect with Upper Manatee River Road on the south side.

It's a project that's been talked about for years, but now the U.S. Coast Guard has thrown its support behind the idea, setting up a showdown between those who say the bridge is needed, and those who say it's not.

"I think it’s not too bad. There’s a lot of new developments out here, a lot of new communities and facilities…it’ll probably make travel a lot easier," says boater Jason Mekush.

Those in favor say the bridge could cut the drive time between Bradenton and Parrish in half.

"This bridge is long overdue; something we've needed for many, many years," says Jim Hysmith, who lives in Parrish.

But opponents concerned about the environment say building the bridge...would be a bridge too far. "Anytime you put a bridge over a river, you're going to have a new source of pollution -- from storm water runoff -- and you're going to introduce more toxins and petroleums and heavy metals into a river that never had those impacts before," says Glenn Compton of environmental group Manasota-88

Another impact could be on Manatee County's rowing training facility at Ft. Hamer Park, where athletes use the road there for running. "I think there’s going to be a lot more traffic, and…we're going to have to be on guard more for cars," says rower Courtland Higgins.

Construction won't start for at least two more years, giving both sides plenty of time to gear up for what could become Manatee County's battle of the bridge.

There will be a public hearing on the issue in August to give people in favor and in opposition a chance to voice their opinions. That will be August 7th from 4-6:30pm at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto.