Fort Hamer Bridge opening has rain delay; but only for vehicles

CARL MARIO NUDI PHOTOS
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 23 for the Fort Hamer Bridge, which was postponed by about a month because rain delayed construction.

Bridge opening delayed until Sept. 23 but the race will go on as planned on Aug. 26.

By CARL MARIO NUDI

All of the rain Manatee County has been experiencing may have delayed the ribbon-cutting for the new Fort Hamer Bridge, but it will not stop runners from racing across the 2,300-foot span on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Because of the excessive amount of rain, construction on the Fort Hamer Bridge has been slowed down and the ribbon-cutting ceremony has been rescheduled for 8:30 a.m., Sept. 23.

“You can’t account for weather,” said Tom Charles, project manager for Johnson Bros. Corp., the construction company Manatee County hired to build the bridge.

Charles said construction contracts take the weather into account when establishing the completion date and days where construction is delayed because of weather are just added on at the end.

But the project is complete enough to have the Fort Hamer Bridge Run on the scheduled day.

“To run across a bridge happens only once or twice in a lifetime,” said Doug Schiller, race director for the event.

“People who don’t usually run in races are doing it because (the course) is across a bridge,” Schiller said.

More than 2,000 runners and walkers are expected to participate in the 5K, 10K, One-Mile Walk and Kid’s River Dashes. Events will start and finish at Fort Hamer County Park at the foot of the north side of the bridge in Parrish.

Early registration ends Thursday, Aug. 24, with race-day registration starting at 6 a.m.

The Kid’s River Dashes, in four age-group heats of ages 3-4 running 100 meters; ages 5-6, 200 meters; ages 7-9, 400 meters; and ages 10-12, 800 meters; will start at 6:45 a.m.

All children entered in the Kid’s River Dashes receive finisher medals and a commemorative shirt. The top three finishers of each age group will be awarded an engraved trophy.

The fee for the 5K or 10K race will be waived for registered runners 12 years old and younger.

The 5K and 10K races have a simultaneous start at 7:30 a.m., and the top male and female finishers for 5K and 10K receive $100 gift certificates and a custom-made commemorative tile.

Awards also will be presented to top finishing runners three deep in several age categories.

All 5K and 10K finishers will receive a Fort Hamer Bridge Run Commemorative Medal.

“The medal was made by the same people who make the medals for the Boston Marathon,” Schiller said.

The One Mile Walk starts at 7:35 a.m., and pets and strollers are welcome.

The 5K and 10K runners and One Mile Walkers will also receive a shirt with the Fort Hamer Bridge logo and a commemorative ribbon.

Workers on the deck of the Fort Hamer Bridge complete the concrete guardrail on the west side of the bridge.

There will be an after-race party with food and refreshments, and a YMCA-sponsored Kid’s Zone area with food, beverages, face painting, bounce house and games.

Manatee County Youth Rowing crews will be hosting an open house, and the rowing athletes will give tours of their boathouse at the Fort Hamer County Park facility.

Proceeds from the race will go to the Manatee County Youth Rowing program, the YMCA Parrish branch and the Parrish Foundation.

Construction on the bridge will be halted and made ready for the runners, said Trudy Gerena, community outreach specialist for Manatee County.

“The bridge will be made safe for pedestrian traffic prior to the race date,” Gerena wrote in an email.

As the race date approaches, many last minute details for the event are being completed.

“I’m very excited about the race,” said Jamie Rusnak, who was helping to mark the course last week with other race committee volunteers.

“This event is going to help so many families in our community,” Rusnak said.

The Parrish resident also was happy the Fort Hamer Bridge would soon be opening.

“This will provide the community with an alternative route,” Rusnak said. “Not only for traffic, but for safety.”

Manatee County officials seriously discussed locating a bridge at Fort Hamer Road for more than a decade before construction started in March 2015.

The $32.7 million dollar project includes the bridge and reconstruction and widening of the two approaching roads, Fort Hamer Road on the north side and Upper Manatee River Road on the south side.

Tom Charles, left, project manager with Johnson Bros. Corp., the construction company Manatee County hired to build the Fort Hamer Bridge, answers questions for community outreach specialists for Manatee County, Trudy Gerena and Tiffani Wilshire.

The Fort Hamer Bridge will have two traffic lanes with shoulders and bike lanes. There will be a pedestrian sidewalk on the east side separated from traffic with a concrete wall, and a scenic overlook at about the midpoint of the bridge.

The improvements along Fort Hamer and Upper Manatee River roads, which included additional sidewalk, paved bike lanes, grass shoulders, right and left turn lanes at each intersection, milling and resurfacing, and widening of the roads to 24 feet, are close to completed.

There have been other delays besides the weather that pushed completion of the bridge past the expected December 2016 date.

“Sub-soil conditions were different than what the tests indicated,” said Charles. “That was another delay of about three months.”

Some items yet to be completed are pouring the concrete deck for a short section of the bridge and approach road, installation of the railing along the pedestrian walkway and painting.

For more information about the Fort Hamer Bridge Race, go to www.forthamerbridgerun.com or call the race director Doug Schiller at 941-932-6147

For information about the Fort Hamer Bridge visit www.forthamerbridge.com.

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