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MPO seeks public input to shape 2050 transportation priorities


Long Range Transportation Plan Project Manager William Roll speaks to attendees at the Phase 1 Visioning workshop.
Long Range Transportation Plan Project Manager William Roll speaks to attendees at the Phase 1 Visioning workshop.
Photo by Andrew Warfield
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From the time a major transportation project is conceived to the start of construction takes about 14 years. 

That's why regional long-range transportation plans are necessary, Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization officials told a few dozen attendees of a May 29 visioning workshop at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus.

Titled “Invest Today, Transform Tomorrow,” work on the 2050 LRTP is in the early community survey phase, seeking in-person and online comments from residents of the two-county area regarding transportation priorities ranging from bicycle paths to transit to highway interchanges. 

Key takeaways include: 

  • Every five years, the LRTP is updated to reflect changes in demographics, economics and community needs, ensuring it remains relevant and effective in guiding transportation planning.
  • The 2050 LRTP builds on the 2045 plan, which identified nearly $2 billion worth of regional transportation projects with a focus on projects that encourage safety, reduce congestion and address the most dangerous roads and intersections in the area.
  • The Phase 1 Visioning Survey will be used to better understand the community’s needs, values and aspirations for a better transportation system.

With about 18 months to complete the work, the Phase 1 Visioning Survey sets the tone for completion of the update due in late 2025.

The current plan envelops three transportation network scenarios of creating economic opportunity, environmental health and sustainability, and creating vibrant places. 

For the 2050 update, a fourth scenario, creating a resilient community, was added. Survey participants are asked to rate priorities from all four scenarios. The input throughout the current and future survey opportunities will be ranked and considered when developing project priorities.

“This is going to be used by the MPO to help set priorities in terms of what projects are going to be identified for funding,” said project manager William Roll, a consultant with land use planner Kimley-Horn. 

That’s particularly important in the current environment of escalating costs and shrinking transportation revenue dollars.

“We don't have specific numbers, but I can tell you the forecast for available monies for transportation improvement projects is not great,” Roll said. “The forecast is actually less than what it was for the 2045 plan. The second thing is everything's more expensive. In the last two years cost of pavement has gone up 55%, so our revenues are down and our cost to build infrastructure has gone up considerably.”


The scenarios

In promotion of the high-value economic growth scenario, the 2045 LRTP prioritizes attracting high-tech businesses, a focus on port centers as economic engines, a plan for a higher education/cultural corridor and new technology for transportation infrastructure. 

Potential projects under this scenario include an economic development center west of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, multi-modal connections between the new center and downtown Sarasota and Bradenton, and new development along I-75 and U.S. 41.

City of Sarasota transportation planners Corinne Arriaga and Alvimarie Corales were among the the participants in the MPO's 2050 LRTP visioning workshop.
Photo by Andrew Warfield

In the creating vibrant places scenario, the current plan prioritizes economic diversification to support urban centers, providing more multimodal options, increasing housing and transportation options, and preserving corridors for future premium transit to connect urban centers. Potential projects include development in existing downtown walkable centers, investment in premium transit, and redevelopment of existing strip commercial centers into transit-oriented mixed-use developments.

In the preserving environmental health scenario, the 2045 LRTP prioritizes safeguarding environmental assets, reducing carbon emissions, enforcing the urban growth boundary and infill development, and increased density and enhanced transit to reduce auto dependency. Potential projects include development in urban growth boundaries primarily west of I-75; and funding transit, bike and pedestrian improvements.

In the newly created resilient communities scenario, the updated plan priorities include disaster response and recovery, upgrading and building new transportation facilities to reduce impact of natural disasters and adapt to changing conditions, and recovering quickly. Potential projects include increased development in resilient areas inland along existing corridors, and upgrading and building new transportation facilities.

All of that requires funding, which Roll pointed out is shrinking in the face of rising costs, hence The MPO’s campaign to solicit the public’s list of priorities and how they can be applied practically with already planned and existing conditions on the ground.

“Our objective is to identify things that could be different,” Roll said. “If we decided as a community to go a different direction, that doesn't mean that there's going to be dramatic change. It can't happen because there's already the processes of approvals in place. Somebody's already built a subdivision someplace and people are going to move there. So even with us having the different scenarios, ultimately the outcome is to produce something that's based on the trend that also grabs the best pieces of the different scenarios that were identified.”

Additional survey and public engagement opportunities will be available as the MPO further develops the 2050 LRTP.

 

author

Andrew Warfield

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.

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