Manatee, Sarasota disagree on Tara Bridge as solution to University Parkway traffic woes

skennedy@bradenton.comMarch 13, 2014 

MANATEE -- Talk may start again about a new bridge across the Braden River at Tara Boulevard as officials of Manatee and Sarasota counties decide what road improvements should be made to take pressure off the University Parkway area.

But the subject never came up during a meeting Thursday in Tallahassee among Manatee and Sarasota county commissioners, developers and Florida Department of Transportation chief Ananth Prasad, said Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh.

"Nothing was mentioned in Tallahassee about the Tara Bridge," said Baugh, Manatee's representative at the meeting.

However, Sarasota County Commission Chairman Charles Hines referred to the bridge possibility during an interview with Bradenton Herald last week, saying "the reality is, we need two or three north-south corridors on both sides of the interstate."

For many years, the bridge had been considered a possible north-south connec

tor linking Honore Avenue on the south side of the river to State Road 70 on the north.

Prasad said he would try to corral approximately $60 million for a new interchange at Interstate 75 and University Parkway, but he wanted help from local officials in beefing up the road network around it to better handle congestion across the whole corridor.

"Tara is not on the table to my knowledge. It was not mentioned in Tallahassee," said Baugh, whose district includes much of East Manatee. "I would oppose it. We already have Lockwood Ridge Road ... made for heavy traffic, underused at this point.

"Why consider paying $50 million for a bridge that takes you to the same place as the road we already have made? It makes no sense to me."

Although the Tara Bridge proposal has been part of the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan since 1989, there is no money budgeted to build it in the five-year priority list for capital improvement projects, said county government spokesman Nick Azzara.

However, county commissioners recently received an email from a writer named Joe Roche, who advocated reconsideration.

"I would like you to please reconsider putting in the previously proposed bridge extension to connect Tara Boulevard to Honore Avenue," Roche wrote. "As you know, when the new University Town Center opens in October of 2014, traffic will be very congested on I-75."

Although he acknowledged Tara residents would "not welcome this increase in traffic, however, we have to remind ourselves of the tremendous growth out East."

Asked if he'd heard any discussion about a revived effort to build the bridge, Bill Pastori, former president of Tara Golf & Country Club, said he had not.

"We may have to mobilize again, like we did before," Pastori said. "Our concern is, once you get that through route, of course, from Sarasota up here, we're talking about heavy trucks coming up Tara Boulevard, which, quite frankly, is already in terrible condition."

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

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