BY LIZA STROUT - Whether it was tarpon or just the holiday weekend, the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority saw a surge in traffic Thursday through Monday, beating last year’s numbers for the same weekend by more than 1,100 vehicles.
While the grapevine had the big numbers coming across on Sunday, that day was actually down by 14 vehicles from last year, according to GIBA.
What really pushed the weekend over the top were Thursday and Friday of last week. Thursday, with 2,765 vehicles, was up from 2,345 in 2012, an increase of 420 vehicles for that day.
Friday was even busier, with 3,450 cars, trucks and others coming across the causeway, an increase of 942 vehicles over last year.
Lew Hastings, executive director of the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce, was elated to compare this weekend’s numbers to the same weekend in 2012.
“The Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce could not be more proud to show that our well-organized event had a significant positive economic impact on the local economy right before the beginning of what is traditionally our slow season,” he said. “The vehicle totals from GIBA tell the tale that the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce events are bringing additional visitors to the island. In a comparison of this Memorial Day weekend to the 2012 Memorial Day weekend, the World's Richest Tarpon Tournament & Festival in 2013 clearly surpassed the traffic generated by any event scheduled last year. This should put to rest any concerns the general public or our members have about the direction or effectiveness the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce has on our local economy now or in the future.”
The Authority expected the increase in traffic, and scheduled extra toll tenders for the weekend. They had an extra tender on duty over the three-day weekend for the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This wasn’t enough, however, for many who were coming onto the island.
At several points throughout the weekend, traffic was backed up to Placida Road, and the Beacon received reports of drivers waiting as long as 20 minutes to get through the toll plaza.
E-mail (required, but will not display)
Notify me of follow-up comments
Click for a larger view