Bridging Communities and Improving Roads
Construction is nearly completed on the Fort Hamer Bridge, a $32.7 M project connecting Upper Manatee River Road (UMRR) with Fort Hamer Road. This will give residents of Lakewood Ranch a 2nd option to I-75 to move between Manatee and Hillsborugh counties. Initially started in 2015, this two-year project was commissioned by Manatee County at the behest of community developers wanting a more accessible route between the Parrish and Lakewood Ranch. The project spans approximately 5.5 miles and includes the new construction of Fort Hamer Bridge, as well as necessary improvements to both UMRR and Fort Hamer Road.
The Fort Hamer Bridge itself consists of a two-lane bridge that extends roughly 2,300 feet across the Manatee River. With paved bike lanes, spacious shoulders, sidewalks, and additional turn lanes, Fort Hamer Bridge is projected to become a smooth transition between the UMRR and Fort Hamer Road. The north and south approaches also include sidewalks, shoulders, and roadway lighting to ease traffic conditions.
UMRR and Fort Hamer Road will include comprehensive improvements, including extra sidewalks, paved bike lanes, and right and left turn lanes. In addition, the roads will be widened to 24 feet, and a traffic signal will be positioned at the intersection of UMRR on the south side of Fort Hamer Bridge.
Current Status of Construction
The Fort Hamer Bridge contract was initially given to the Johnson Bros. Corp of Hillsborough County with an estimated 630 calendar days for completion. Construction began March 2015 and is expected to continue until late Summer 2017.
As of May 2017, the Fort Hamer Bridge is more than 80% complete. The bridge currently extends more than 1,850 feet from the northern side of the Manatee River. The Material Stabilized Earth (MSE) wall has also been completed on the southern approach. Construction crews are working on the piers on both sides of the bridge. Once finished in July, crews will begin connecting the southern section to the UMRR side of the bridge.
Crews must complete several scheduled projects before finalizing Fort Hamer Bridge. The continued construction of piers, pouring of concrete decks, and building a new road to connect the southern approach to the bridge are all necessary projects to be completed before the end of summer.
Benefits To Residents on Both Sides
Although the Fort Hamer Bridge cost a whopping $23.5 M - UMRR and Fort Hamer Road improvements cost $2.7 M and $6.5 M respectively - the benefits to Manatee County are immense.
With the construction of Fort Hamer Bridge, residents of Parrish and Lakewood Ranch communities have easier access to both sides of the Manatee River. Parrish residents will gain a speedy route to Lakewood Ranch’s expansive amenities, while Lakewood residents will be able to enjoy Parrish’s revitalized historic village within a short drive. Parrish also includes the Florida Railroad Museum and the elite rowing facility at Fort Henderson Park, host of the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
The Fort Hamer Bridge is also expected to increase outside business and open up new development on both sides of the river. Developers are already planning more than 23,000 new residential units in the North River area, mostly along Moccasin Wallow Road. Developments, like The Islands of River Wilderness near Fort Hamer Park, are capitalizing on the bridge’s construction and using it as a selling point for prospective buyers.
Community residents are hoping the UMRR and Fort Hamer Road improvements will help smooth traffic flow and eliminate accidents. US 301 and I-75, currently used to reach the opposite sides of Manatee River, often suffer from traffic congestion. The Fort Hamer Bridge will provide a more-direct route and ease driving conditions for locals during tourist season. Alternative routes are also critical in case of evacuation due to natural disasters.