Manatee County commissioners hope to shift priorities for $176 million draft transportation work program

skennedy@bradenton.comDecember 13, 2012 

MANATEE -- Manatee County commissioners are hoping to shift some priorities in a new Florida Department of Transportation draft work program, which calls for more than $176 million in transportation spending in Manatee from 2013-18.

Commissioners earlier this week reviewed the program, agreeing they would prefer to emphasize improvements along the U.S. Highway 41 and U.S. 301 corridor, north of the Manatee River and east along U.S. 301, toward Ellenton.

They also hoped that $5 million designated for a complex "project development and environmental" study for a new DeSoto Bridge might

instead be re-directed to a feasibility study for highway improvements north of the river, which they thought were more important.

"It probably doesn't really make reasonable sense to spend that amount of money today to study something that -- you'll have to put the study on the shelf because you're never going to find whatever the number is -- $80 (million), $90 (million) or $100 million to do something in the future..." said Sage Kamiya, Public Works deputy director, traffic management division.

A new bridge would require "significant money" that could drain funds away from other future projects the county might want to do, he told commissioners during a meeting Tuesday.

The commission directed its chairman to send the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization a letter requesting removal of the new bridge study, and replacing it with a feasibility study focusing on the area along U.S. 41 from Haben Boulevard through the U.S. 41/301 and 10th Street intersections, and east on U.S. 301 to 24th Avenue.

The FDOT's tentative work program is a five-year listing of all transportation projects planned for each fiscal year. It is slated for consideration by the MPO, a regional transportation planning agency, at its meeting Monday at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto.

Among the top projects on FDOT's current list are improvements for all forms of transportation along the U.S. 41 corridor, along with a project to widen 15th Street East to three lanes from Tallevast Road to S.R. 70, according to Mike Howe, the MPO's executive director.

"What Manatee was saying, (was) 'We want to know where we're going first, before we obligate, maybe, $75 million for these subsequent phases we haven't identified first,'" Howe explained Wednesday about the commission's action.

The MPO is expected to vote Monday on the draft program, perhaps also adjusting and refining what projects are on the list, Howe said.

"The bottom line is: It's pushing a lot of money into the community for needed transportation improvements, and that's the goal," Howe remarked.

"That's the bottom line. These are all very good things that will help the transportation mobility for our community."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter

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