The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners and the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed resolutions today asking the Florida Department of Transportation to build a diverging-diamond-style interchange to ease traffic at Interstate 75 and University Parkway and supporting improvements to the road network around it.
After a delegation from Manatee and Sarasota Counties, plus local developers, traveled to Tallahassee March 6 to push FDOT to expedite the interchange project, the state transportation agency vowed to raise $60 million to construct it before the 2017 World Rowing Championships — if the two counties formally approved resolutions committing to the plan.
“We have an opportunity now and we should continue in good faith to move this forward,” said Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac. “I think this resolution is as good as we can hope for in Manatee County.”
The two counties spent the weeks following the Tallahassee meeting crafting resolutions supporting accelerated construction of the interchange and committing to other roadway improvements.
Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Lakewood Ranch’s developer, has already committed to help fund extending Lorraine Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south to Fruitville Road.
In addition, to offset existing development impacts, SMR has committed $7.5 million toward other improvements, likely a flyover across Interstate 75 west to Cattlemen Road, or the extension of Iona Road south to Bee Ridge Road.
Sarasota County supports accelerated construction of the interchange as well.
"It's a big project," said Charles Hines, Sarasota commissioner. "We all recognize there is no perfect time to do this. But to continue to wait was not the right answer. There wil be pain while this (construction) goes on. But in the long run, it is better to get this done."
Once the resolutions passed, FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad has said he will look to find $60 million to fund construction of the interchange.
“This is a FDOT project,” said Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator. “We have no authority over them. We work with them and partner with them and we continue to work with our partners to make sure the road network is constructed. With that said, we all agreed to take some actions and move this forward as quick as possible.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].