Over the next couple decades, Gulf of Mexico Drive may see some significant changes.
On Dec. 4, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman presented to the Town Commission four infrastructure projects he suggested be prioritized by the Manatee-Sarasota Metropolitan Planning Organization).
The MPO, according to its website, develops plans and priorities for regional decision-making on transportation issues.
Anticipated revenues available via the MPO between 2025 and 2045 include funds from state, federal and local sources, such as the Sarasota County and Manatee County Transit Agencies capital and operating funds.
The total funding from these sources identified by the MPO for Longboat’s priority projects comes to almost $30 million.
Identifying priorities for the MPO is an annual exercise, Brownman said. This year, four projects are being reemphasized.
“My suggestion is we continue to press on these projects as priorities for the town and keep their place in line and keep their funding,” Brownman said. “If the MPO sees that a community does not bring the same project forward one year, they might think: ‘the community must think this isn’t a priority anymore, let's shift that money somewhere else.’ We don't want that to happen.”
First on the list of priorities is the Country Club Shores left-turn lanes, from Channel Lane to the north entrance of Longboat Club Road.
The Florida Department of Transportation is already committed to the project, Brownman said. Approximately $1.4 million for the project has been set aside by the FDOT in the current fiscal year, and the plans are pending final approval.
Second is the roundabout at the intersection of GMD and Broadway Street.
Original plans for the roundabout were rejected by the FDOT in June when roadway banking was identified as a design issue.
Now the roundabout is undergoing a redesign, and the FDOT has committed $1.685 million toward construction. An additional $4.8 million was set aside in the MPO’s long-range plan.
Another roundabout being considered in the plan is at Longboat Club Road, which also has $4.8 million set aside by the MPO.
This roundabout, Brownman said, isn’t necessarily on the town’s immediate radar. He said the idea has been to wait for a developer to come forward to work on a project partnership.
“But we don’t want to lose our place in line with the MPO and the potential funding,” he said.
The Gulf of Mexico Drive Complete Street project is another priority for the town and the MPO, and the largest financial contribution from the MPO to Longboat Key at $18.3 million.
“That's a big chunk, that 's almost half, really,” Brownman said.
Brownman also said that if other projects could be completed with more financial assistance, such as Manatee County assisting with the Broadway Roundabout, then the town could potentially ask the MPO to move some surplus funds from those projects to the complete street.
These four projects have already been identified by the MPO as “cost feasible” projects, meaning the organization has identified funding for its 2045 long-range plan. The organization will be able to provide the funding within the timeframe between 2026 to 2030.
The MPO plan is separate from the FDOT’s five-year work plan, Brownman said. But the goal is to get all these projects into the FDOT’s plan eventually. As of right now, only the Broadway Roundabout project is in FDOT’s draft tentative five-year plan.
Town commissioners voted 7-0 to approve these four projects to remain priorities for the MPO long-range plan.