EAST COUNTY — Until 20 years ago, Manatee County didn’t start major road projects until it secured all the funding required to complete it.
A group of homeowners from Peridia and nearby communities wants one major county road project, one in the works since 1987, to be put on hold.
County officials, however, say they’ve waited long enough.
At a May 21 meeting, Manatee County public works and engineering staff gave its most detailed update yet of its long-planned 44th Avenue East extension, which will connect Cortez Road and its nearby beaches in the west to Lakewood Ranch, farther east.
The county is paying for and completing the project in phases. Funding will come from gas taxes, impact fees, grants from the Florida Department of Transportation and bonds.
The county has funding, construction plans and permits to complete First to 45th streets. Construction from 30th to 45th streets will start in about two years, maybe less. Some land still must be acquired for right of way.
After the stretch of road from First to 45th streets is completed, plans to build 44th Avenue east of 45th Street will be finalized.
The $112 million project is still eight to 12 years out from completion. Permitting for a bridge over the Braden River could take more than three years to obtain.
Commissioners already have approved the 44th Avenue East thoroughfare plan, anticipating the need for another east-west roadway to accommodate projected population growth.
State roads 64 and 70, the current east-west routes, are already at their ultimate six-lane configurations and cannot be expanded.
Residents from Peridia, Wallingford, Manatee Oaks, Sable Key, Sable Harbour, Fairfax and Highland Ridge, in East County, take the most exception to a side project to the main project — the widening of 45th Street East (Lockwood Ridge Road), a 9.6-mile road connecting from Fruitville Road in Sarasota to 26th Avenue East in Bradenton, from two to four lanes. A petition against the project has more than 1,400 signatures.
Homeowners cite the potential for declining property values, noise, safety, pollution, traffic and a waste of taxpayer dollars and hope to convince Manatee County commissioners to halt construction at U.S. 301 until funding and permits to cross Braden River are obtained.
Loretto Sadkin, chairwoman for Peridia’s opposition group, offered two more recommendations for commissioners: stop the acquisition of land along 45th Street East and redirect $11.6 million set aside for widening 45th Street East to the east-west extension.
Public Works Director Ron Schulhofer vowed the road would be built as planned and said the county is talking with permitting authorities about construction east of 45th Street.
“We don’t really see anything insurmountable,” Schulhofer said. “We intend to complete the entire project.”
Manatee’s finance director, Jim Seuffert, said low material costs make it feasible to finance the project now.
Commissioners expressed dismay with the waiting and sympathized with homeowners but felt uncomfortable voting on any alternatives to the project, with so much money already committed to it. However, they said other options should be explored.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino motioned to prohibit trucks and the use of compression breaks along 45th Street East to improve traffic and limit noise, but it failed without a second.
County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said new proposals can be made when the commission looks at its capital-improvement projects in the next few weeks.
Contact Josh Siegel at email@example.com.
Status of project phases
First Street to 19th Street Court East: Construction bid opened May 23.
19th Street to 30th Street: Construction to begin late 2014.
30th Street East to 45th Street East: Construction to start summer 2014.
45th Street East to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard including 45th Street East to Caruso Road, Caruso Road to Creekwood Boulevard, and Creekwood to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard: To be completed in eight to 12 years, requiring funding of $67 million.