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Siesta Key Monday, May 21, 2018 1 year ago

County commission to discuss Siesta Key road swap

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The county and state are discussing a deal that would give the county control of State Road 758, which includes segments of Midnight Pass Road and Siesta Drive.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

The Sarasota County Commission will consider Tuesday the terms of a land swap with the Florida Department of Transportation that would give the county ownership of several roads on and near Siesta Key.

Primarily, the swap is intended to release the county from the financial burden of improving and upkeep on the River Road Regional Interstate Connector. Since 2002, a total of $52.6 million has been invested on improvements to the road.

In exchange for FDOT taking ownership of River Road, which would allow the organization to use state and federal funding for improvements, Sarasota County would take responsibility for a segment of State Road 758 that terminates near the north and south bridges to Siesta Key. The state road includes portions of Siesta Drive, Higel Avenue and Midnight Pass Road.

The deal would also give the county control of a portion of State Road 72 — specifically, the segment of Stickney Point Road west of U.S. 41. The state would retain control of the north and south bridges.

The road transfers would begin upon execution of an agreement between the county and state. County Administrator Jonathan Lewis is seeking further direction from the commission at its May 22 meeting. If the board is interested in pursuing the swap, the next step would be for the county to send FDOT formal acceptance of the terms.

The terms also include agreements about who will execute improvements on certain roads.

Notably, FDOT agrees to fund the implementation of an improvement to the curve at Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue, near the Siesta Bridge. The county would develop the improvement plan, which would go into effect after the swap takes place.

Some residents, such as those involved in Make Siesta Drive Safer, are eager for the county to finalize the agreement. The organization is dedicated to improving conditions along Siesta Drive, particularly where it curves into Higel Avenue. The group believes the swap would help accomplish that goal, allowing local officials to move more quickly to implement changes.

Siesta Promenade

There are resident concerns surrounding the proposal, too. Sura Kochman of the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance has been an active voice raising concerns about the proposed Siesta Promenade development at Stickney Point and U.S. 41. If Stickney Point Road changes hands, she fears the county will not be in the best position to evaluate the project’s effect on traffic in the area.

Benderson Development is proposing a mixed-use complex for the northwest corner of Stickney Point and U.S. 41 that includes retail, hotel and living space. The company submitted a traffic study about the area surrounding the site to the county, and FDOT staff has been providing their own feedback.  

Kochman said FDOT pointed out issues with the traffic study that the county transportation staff missed.

“We have a problem, and I don’t think the commission understands it,” Kochman said.  

Commissioners will discuss FDOT’s proposed agreement terms during the morning session of the Tuesday, May 22 meeting. The meeting is open to public comment shortly after its start at 9 a.m. The full agenda for the meeting, which includes supporting documentation about the road swap, is available on the county's website here.

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