Tara bridge still alive

dgulliver@bradenton.comSeptember 2, 2011 

The Tara Boulevard bridge project took another step toward resurrection Thursday night.

A panel of Manatee and Sarasota county residents voted 10-5 to recommend that the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the region’s transportation planning board, keep the project alive in the group’s long-term plans.

The vote marks another see-saw swing for a road project that has been on Manatee County drawing boards since 1989 -- but was dead, or close to it, at the start of the year.

Tara Boulevard winds between housing developments about a half-mile west of Interstate 75, stopping a quarter-mile short of the Braden River. The project would extend Tara southward over a bridge to Honore Avenue, completing a north-south connector road that would continue across State Road 70 to Creekwood Boulevard and 44th Avenue East.

Transportation planners and politicians have called the $52 million project a vital link between Bradenton and East Manatee, an alternative to I-75 and a way to get traffic off State Road 70. But opponents say the road is ill-suited for that purpose, and brought a slide show of pictures in hopes of proving their case.

Sandy Gilbert, a Pleasant Hill Road resident, displayed Tara Boulevard’s multiple curves, narrow lanes and the ponds lying close to the shoulderless roadside. “Does this look like Lockwood Ridge Road?” he said. “This is the wrong project in the wrong place and it’s 30 years too late.”

Cathy Woolley, who lives in Tara, said the road extension was designed before her community and the others were built, and would bring too much traffic close to Tara Elementary.

“This was intended to connect the cow pastures south of Braden River with the cow pastures north of Braden River,” she said. “The connector is no longer a valid plan, and it’s not fiscally prudent.”

But committee member John Hendricks said the panel should consider action by the Manatee County Commission, which voted 6-1 in January to send the project back to the MPO board.

That board voted 10-4 to remove it from the 25-year plan at the behest of Joe McClash, who is a member of the MPO board member and the county commission. With planners saying the project was unlikely to get federal or state money, it did not belong in the plan, McClash said. A month later, his fellow county commissioners reversed direction.

The Tara extension project now goes back to the full MPO board on Sept. 26.

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