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Sarasota Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013 4 years ago

Sarasota and Manatee counties move toward shared transit

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Sarasota and Manatee counties could in the future share a public transportation system run by a private company.

Commissioners from both municipalities directed staff during an April 16 joint meeting to draft an interlocal agreement committing the counties to a regional approach to public transportation. A private operator or public transit authority are two ideas staff will consider to oversee a joint system.

Combining transit systems could make federal funding more attainable, and reduce costs through economies of scale, but staff stopped short of any guarantees before private firms pitch proposals or quotes.

“I would be hesitant about promising any savings,” said Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said. “Because salesmen are salesmen — they’ll try and sell you the sizzle.”

In other items, commissioners:
• Agreed that they would need more information about bus rapid transit — a high-quality bus system — before picking a route connecting Sarasota and Manatee counties.

During a meeting with the Sarasota County Commission, Sarasota City commissioners supported a route along U.S. 41. Sarasota County staff has pitched routes along that arterial road, as wells as U.S. 301 and a railroad corridor.

• Debated a “divergent diamond” interchange at University Parkway and I-75 proposed by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Commissioners were hesitant to throw support behind the plan, which would turn the stretch of the interstate into five lanes, and require local road improvements. Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta criticized the plan, which would be the first of its kind in Florida.

“I think I’d prefer a roundabout there before I’d do a divergent diamond,” Barbetta said.

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