The Sarasota City Commission meeting on Monday included an update from staff regarding impending and longer-range planning of transportation projects. Among them:
Ringling Boulevard/Pine Place roundabout
Reconstruction of the “funky intersection” as described by City Manager Marlon Brown at the Sarasota County Administration Center with a side street that also serves as the vehicle entrance to the U.S. Post Office is due to begin next spring. The lowest bid at $3.7 million exceeded the city’s budget, prompting staff to seek funding to fill the gap.
“We submitted a request to the Florida Department of Transportation for additional funding for this project,” said Capital Projects Manager Camden Mills. “They have fulfilled this request and we’ve drafted an updated agreement. They've added additional federal funds for this project, and our new total budget is just over $4 million.”
Benderson Development is in the early planning stages to redevelop the government building and surrounding parking lots after the county vacates it by December 2025. Commissioner Debbie Trice asked if the roundabout design is taking into account the traffic a mixed-use development will bring.
“That's why we're doing a roundabout,” Brown said. “With the roundabout you get better flow. This will precede the development of that property.”
The target date for the start of construction is March 2024. Mills said substantial completion is estimated at 240 days with the project fully complete in 300 days.
Serena Street pedestrian bridge
Located one block north of Fruitville Road just west of Beneva Road, the project will provide a neighborhood connection from the end of Serena Street over a county-owned and maintained drainage ditch into the Town and Country Shopping Center. The project cost estimate is $440,000.
“The final construction plans are currently under review with city staff and we're coordinating with the shopping plaza,” Mills said. “Our next steps for this project will be to complete the design, continued coordination with a neighboring property owner that will be adjacent to this bridge, and then an interlocal agreement with Sarasota County.”
That agreement is required as the county owns the ditch. Mills said staff anticipates soliciting construction services for the project in late 2024.
Newtown sidewalk improvements
Contracted survey work is due for completion at the end of November on a project area mostly west of U.S. 301 between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 31st Street. The project area is based on an in-house analysis that scored existing sidewalks and gaps with criteria including proximity to schools, medical centers and essential services; as well as trip hazards and ADA compliance.
The city is waiting to receive $1 million in federal funds for the project.
“Once we receive the completed survey we will begin an in-house design and that takes somewhere between eight to 12 months to complete,” said Senior Transportation Planner Corinne Arriaga. “We will be looking at getting easements with property owners if necessary. There's a federal appropriation for this project. We're just waiting for the bill to be approved at the end of 2023 and our expect our estimated construction year would be 2025.”
The project will be tiered based on the city’s project scoring methodology.
“We will see what that million dollars will knock out,” Arriaga said. “If that completes all of Phase 1 then we can move on to that second tier. If it doesn't complete all of Phase 1 then we move on to how do we get funding for the rest of Phase 1.”
Legacy Trail to Bobby Jones extension
Only in the pre-project planning phase, the city is required to complete an environmental study to meet federal requirements to extend Legacy Trail northward to and across Fruitville Road and continue into the Bobby Jones golf course and nature park area.
Public meetings will be held Dec. 12-14 at the VFW at 124 S. Tuttle Ave. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to seek input on two route options. First is along Beneva Road then crossing Fruitville Road at the intersection and continuing along the existing Circus Trail. the second option turns east near the trail crossing at Beneva before curving north through an easement and crossing over Fruitville and extending between the golf course and the Fairway Oaks neighborhood.
Input from those meetings will contribute to the final report due sometime in spring 2024.
To access the trail extension, pedestrians and bicyclists will have to cross Fruitville Road. “Is that going to be allowed?” asked Ahearn-Koch.
"We're looking at an interim solution, which would be a pedestrian hybrid beacon, similar to what you see at the roundabouts,” said Chief Transportation Planner Alvimarie Corales. “That is in the interim because a pedestrian bridge is going to take a couple of years to build, but taking that into account we also have to accommodate a safe crossing regardless of whether it's going to be on Beneva using the traffic signal or at mid-block.”
In addition to those projects, staff discussed plans for the 10th Street and Boulevard of the Arts complete street projects, which have reached the 30% design phase for which federal grants have been applied by the city. Farther out are Main Street and Fruitville Road improvements in downtown in addition to a St. Armands Key complete streets project — none of which have identified funding sources.
Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.