Sunday, May 3, 2009

Anna Maria bridge survey scrutinized

Replacing the Anna Maria Island bridge is one of the more emotion-packed, history-evoking debates in Manatee County. Our island has preserved a lifestyle all its own, yet time marches on -- and change becomes inevitable.

In the past year, the Florida Department of Transportation has conducted three surveys with the stated intent to gauge public sentiment on what to do with the aging drawbridge when it reaches the end of its expected lifespan in 10 to 15 years. But Herald transportation reporter Duane Marsteller questioned the methodology and results.

Who responded to the survey was key. Through a public-records request, Duane obtained PDF copies of public-opinion surveys submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation in March and April. He used property and tax records to confirm residency.

The results don't change: The survey found that a high-level, fixed span drew overwhelming support from island residents, even more than among non-island residents. But what Duane confirmed with his analysis: Those results might mean little, because FDOT used a survey method that has little or no statistical validity, a public-opinion research expert says. Read his story in today's Herald and here online.

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