EAST COUNTY — Without help fromstate legislators, the Florida Department of Transportation still promises to accelerate plans for improvements to the interchange of Interstate 75 and University Parkway.
Legislators officially approved a state budget last week that does not include $100 million that was to be reserved for a transportation trust fund.
Ananth Prasad, FDOT secretary, had hoped to put $60 million of the $100 million toward constructing a double diverging diamond at the interchange of Interstate 75 and University Parkway.
FDOT District 1 spokesman Billy Hattaway said the state transportation agency will attempt to find funding elsewhere. He said other transportation projects often come in under budget, and others are not finished at all.
Those bonus funds can rollover year to year.
“The secretary is confident we can find the funding,” Hattaway said. “We’re still hoping to meet the accelerated schedule. That’s our goal. We will have the project ready on the timeline we committed.”
Sarasota and Manatee county officials traveled to Tallahassee March 6 to meet with Prasad about their concerns with the I-75/University interchange and pushed for the state to expedite improvements.
At that time, Prasad vowed to fast track the process — aiming to begin construction before the 2017 World Rowing Championships, but after the October opening of the Mall at University Town Center — if local officials supported improvements to the surrounding road network.
In the following weeks, Sarasota and Manatee commissioners passed resolutions stating the counties were committed to making other roadway improvements.
FDOT did not have any money earmarked for the project until 2021.
Hattaway said the interchange is 50% designed.
“There are ways to find $60 million in funds here, there and everywhere,” Hattaway said. “It’d be unusual for a $60 million project to fall by the wayside.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].