Sarasota-Manatee border businesses dinged by road closures

Herald staff writersJanuary 28, 2014 

MANATEE -- Carol McCarthy is a Longboat Key resident who enjoys shopping at the Nordstrom Rack and other stores in The Shoppes at University Center off Interstate 75 and University Parkway.

But when damage to an overpass shut down her normal travel route Monday to the shopping center, which is from I-75 north to the University Parkway exit and then over to the shops, she had to re-think how, if and when she wanted to return.

"I'm going to have to reroute myself," McCarthy said.

McCarthy may make the circuitous detour route back to The Shoppes at University Center in the next few days. Other customers likely will simply wait until main roads reopen again.

Business owners along University Parkway, which include Target and Home Depot, worry store traffic will be reduced until the roads reopen. Customers indicated business owners may be right.

"It took me two and a half hours to get here from Venice," said Sarasota County resident Chris Shollenberger at The Shoppes at University Center.

Closed roads also pressured other Manatee County arteries, causing delays on State Road 70 and Lockwood Ridge Road.

The traffic grid squeeze is also being considered by Manatee County School District officials who must bus students to school and back home Tuesday.

Sheryl Riker, director of transportation for Manatee County schools, said all students who ride buses will be picked up Tuesday morning.

"There may be some delays. We may have to take a long way around to get to them and get them to school as quickly as we can," she said.

Manatee and Sarasota school officials are working to provide alternate bus routes if University Parkway remains closed Tuesday morning.

"We think it's probably going to be OK for tomorrow, but we have alternate routes planned," Sarasota County Schools spokesman Scott Ferguson said.

Messages notifying parents of potential delays were sent out Monday afternoon, said Steve Valley, Manatee County schools spokesman.

"We're just trying to find the best way to pick kids up and get them home this afternoon," he said.

Early Tuesday, Florida Highway Patrol said University Parkway in both directions had been reopened at Interstate 75. Two of the three southbound lanes on I-75 remained closed.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@ RichardDymond.

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