MANATEE COUNTY - Residents are putting up a legal fight against a new Cortez Bridge.

Several Manatee County residents, along with two former county commissioners, are challenging the Florida Department of Transportation's decision to proceed with plans to replace the Cortez Road drawbridge with a fixed, higher bridge. The group filed a petition Wednesday asking for a state administrative law judge to hear their case against the FDOT, according to the Herald Tribune.

The bridge over Anna Maria Sound links Cortez with the city of Bradenton Beach on Anna Maria Island.

In 2017, FDOT stated that it considered a bridge with 65 feet of clearance for vessels to be the "leading alternative" compared with another 17.5–foot drawbridge or even a drawbridge with 35 feet of clearance that would open less frequently for boat traffic.

Project Manager Marlon Bizerra told the crowd of about 200 residents that the 65–foot option would be "the best investment" and could last 75 years.

Yet residents expressed concern that the ramp for vehicles on the Bradenton Beach side would come too close to the Bridgeport condominiums and on the Cortez side would require an underpass for 127th Street.

Among their complaints, the petitioners said the FDOT did not conduct a public hearing "without bias toward a high–level fixed span."

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and  Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore continue to be very vocal about their opposition to the 65–foot option.

The FDOT will have an opportunity to file a response with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.