MANATEE COUNTY — As members of the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization approved a new five-year transportation improvement plan Monday, they also looked for ways to speed up improvements to the East County road network.
MPO officials will insert a new project into their 2014 project priorities list — the extension of 44th Avenue East from Caruso Road to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. It replaces a project related to bus rapid transit infrastructure.
Although Manatee County has had the 44th Avenue extension in its plan for decades and has been designing and constructing the roadway farther west, the project’s inclusion on the MPO’s priorities list marks Manatee’s first attempt to secure state funding for the East County portion of the project.
“It’s significant in that it’s recognizing the importance of a network east of I-75,” said David Hutchinson, planning manager for the MPO. “It lays the groundwork for soliciting alternative funding sources.”
The 2014 major improvement priorities list includes $4.1 million for project design and engineering for 44th Avenue East from Caruso Road to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. The plan includes a four-lane roadway with sidewalks and bicycle lanes.
The MPO does not project funding would be available until 2021 or later, in accordance with the long-range plan, although it could be advanced based on the state’s other projects and priorities, Hutchinson said.
The MPO’s long-range transportation plan and priorities list includes the extension of 44th Avenue East from 45th Street (Lockwood Ridge Road) to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard at a total cost of about $99.5 million (projected out to 2035).
Although the state has not yet designated funding for the project, Manatee County has appropriated funds for the following pieces of it:
• $700,000 in 2014, $15.8 million in 2017 and $16.5 million in 2018 for 45th Street East to Caruso Road;
• $5.5 million in both 2017 and 2018 for Caruso Road to Creekwood Boulevard; and
• $11.5 million in both 2017 and 2018 for Creekwood Boulevard to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
“(This project) has been in this long-range plan, but with county money only until now. The county’s asking (the MPO) promote it,” Manatee’s Transportation Planning Division Manager Clarke Davis said.
In May, public works and county officials discussed extending 44th east to Lockwood Ridge and then starting on sections farther east.
“This is part of lay outing that groundwork,” Davis said. “It may be we are unsuccessful getting federal money. It’s sort of a wait-and-see thing — which money gets to the project first.”
+ Congestion calmer
Manatee County also intends to improve the intersection of State Road 70 at 30th Street East.
The $575,000 project would include the reconstruction of the northbound to southbound approaches to provide dual left-turn through lanes, one right-turn lane and signal retiming.
The project is ranked No. 2 on the MPO’s 2014 Congestion Management System Project Priorities List.
+ Bridge connection
The MPO 2014 major improvement priority list also allots $5 million for the design and engineering of a project to widen Fort Hamer Road into a four-lane divided roadway with bicycle lanes and sidewalk to Britt Road. Projections show funds would be available between 2016 and 2020.
Contact Pam Eubanks at email@example.com.