Manatee County officials stage 44th Avenue East project workshop

skennedy@bradenton.comAugust 17, 2013 

MANATEE -- Residents affected by the 44th Avenue East road construction project are looking forward to a workshop session Tuesday, where they hope to hear the latest information from county officials, and be able to ask questions.

"They have invited us to sit at the table," said Loretto Sadkin, a resident of Peridia Golf & Country Club, who leads a group from her neighborhood where the long-delayed road construction project is taking place.

Asked what she hopes to accomplish, Sadkin replied, "Essentially, what we have been trying to accomplish from the beginning: We don't object to the road -- their implementation plan seems out of sync."

Her group would like to see construction stop temporarily at U.S. 301, in order to prevent what it predicts will be massive traffic tie-ups resulting from the project.

"It's a way for all interested parties to make sure everybody's receiving the same information," said Norm Feig, a resident of Oak Trace. "My guess is the public works people will give a progress report, and people will ask questions."

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, in whose district much of the work will take place, said residents are well-organized and interested in what the county is doing.

"We're basically having this workshop so Public Works can talk to the commissioners and to the residents, and inform all of us," Baugh said. "There's already been a conversation with the Coast Guard, because of the bridge we need.

"I think they're interested in making sure we give them the best road possible, don't harm their neighborhood more than we have to, and make everything attractive and safe," Baugh added.

County Public Works Director Ron Schulhofer said commissioners asked for the meeting.

"Little has changed since our latest briefing to the BOCC, but it is wonderful that we will hear from the

concerns of the homeowners' associations," he said Friday. "We are committed to keeping them informed."

The project is designed to link Cortez Road on the west side of the Braden River with Lakewood Ranch on the east side, providing an east-west thoroughfare, officials have said.

It began in 1987, and still may be eight to 12 years from completion, according to a recent county report.

Residents have dubbed it "the road to nowhere" because the county has no formal plans for a bridge across the river, meaning it could not fulfill its primary purpose of carrying east-west traffic, they say.And there's the cost: about $112 million, mostly paid for by the county, according to an official estimate presented in May.

The estimate included engineering studies, permitting, land acquisition and construction, all mostly financed by the county. Schulhofer has vowed the road would be speedily built, despite the history of delays that have plagued it over three decades.

The workshop, which will also include three other topics, is slated for 1:30-4 p.m. Tuesday on the fourth floor of County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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