For more than a decade, Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch envisioned a walkable, lake-centric community in which residents could live, work and play in Sarasota County.
But part of that vision for Waterside at Lakewood Ranch, a 5,144-home lake-centric development south of University Parkway and east of Interstate 75, also included an expansion of the area’s road network via extensions of Lorraine Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard southward.
The first of those tasks will be accomplished Sept. 6, as Sarasota County officially opens Lorraine Road from University Parkway south to Fruitville Road.
“This helps us fill in our traffic grid. There’s a lot of growth that’s been happening out east between Fruitville and University, and this will help traffic move more smoothly,” said Carolyn Eastwood, transportation logistics and programs manager for Sarasota County’s transportation department. “It’s a rural area, or has been up to this point.”
The soon-to-open four-lane roadway is classified as a minor arterial road, meaning it will divert local traffic from larger, major roads.
Eastwood said there is no specific figure for traffic initially on the road, but, long term, Sarasota County expects it will handle up to 37,520 daily trips on average, according to its adopted level of service for the roadway.
“It will take a couple of years to achieve the capacity as traffic redistributes and development along Lorraine Road comes online,” Eastwood said.
Richard Bedford, vice president of planning for Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, said the extension of Lorraine Road south to Fruitville not only will service future Waterside at Lakewood Ranch residents, but also the surrounding community.
There is no other north-south connector between Sarasota and Manatee counties east of Interstate 75. And, west of I-75, there’s Cattlemen Road and the two-lane Honore Avenue within a short distance of I-75.
“People can’t wait for it to open,” Bedford said of Lorraine.
Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines said the roadway will be a significant benefit, especially in light of other road improvements made over the past several years, including the opening of diverging diamond interchange at University Parkway and Interstate 75, the Cattlemen Road extension and the pending opening of the Fort Hamer Bridge. All work together to create a road network that helps disperse traffic better.
“It gives everyone alternative routes to get places,” he said. “If you don’t have to go past the interstate to go to dinner or to get groceries, that’s good. It’s all positive.”
SMR also is waiting to construct Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south to Fruitville Road, but is waiting for Sarasota County to finalize the purchase of land needed to build the roadway.