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BRT station moves forward

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 12, 2009
  • Sarasota
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The rebuilt Janie Poe public-housing complex will be adding a new amenity. County commissioners voted two weeks ago to add $225,000 into phase two of the Janie’s Garden Apartments for the design of a bus rapid transit station.

It appears, though, that county commissioners did not know that money would be spent even if the BRT is not built and, right now, the general manager of SCAT says there’s only a 50% chance that it will be constructed.

“This seriously concerns me,” said County Commission Chairman Jon Thaxton. “I just assumed the station wasn’t going to be built if the BRT didn’t go forward.”

The BRT is a faster transit line that would have few stops as it travels from the University of South Florida area to Westfield Southgate Mall. The uncertainty about its future stems from opposition from neighborhood groups who oppose the route traveling near their homes and its price tag — $100 million.

Despite that uncertainty, William Russell, Sarasota Housing Authority executive director, said there’s no contingency plan that stops the BRT station’s construction.

“We felt it was much better to design (the station) now,” he said. “It will be in the same architectural style as Janie’s Garden.”

The BRT station, according to SCAT General Manager Anthony Beckford, will be more than a typical bus stop with a bench and a plastic enclosure.

“It will be a plaza. It will look like a train station,” Beckford said. “It’ll be pretty fancy.”

Russell said if the BRT doesn’t happen, the new station would be used as a regular bus stop.

“I don’t need to build a $225,000 bus stop,” said Thaxton. “I can do a bus stop in the same architecture style for a lot less.”