MANATEE — A housing development on Whitfield Avenue near Palm Aire is about to connect a decades-old missing link in the Manatee County transportation system.
For more than 30 years, 43 acres of agricultural grazing land has been the dead end for the north-south route on Tuttle Avenue. Neal Communities recently started construction of a new 74-home subdivision called Magnolia Point on the land east of U.S. 301.
In building Magnolia Point, Neal will construct a half-mile of roadway connecting the southern portion of Tuttle, where it now deadends at 71st Terrace East, to a northern link running between Whitfield and connecting to State Road 70.
The missing connector link has been on the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan since the 1980s.
Neal expects to open the community in December and the road will be finished in January.
The new 35-mph road will be two lanes divided by a median and will include bicycle lanes.
It will join a divided, two-lane section of the road to the north and an undivided section that ends just south of the Neal property. The design will leave room for an expansion to four lanes.
From a University Avenue Publix grocery store-anchored shopping center, Tuttle Avenue runs about 2 miles to where it ends at 71st Terrace East. It starts again at Whitfield Avenue, running north until it becomes 39th Street East, which then splits into 39th and 37th streets to intersect with S.R. 70.
Sage Kamiya, county deputy director of traffic management, said the connector wasn’t going anywhere until Neal proposed his development. “There wasn’t the need to do this strictly from a development standpoint,” he said.
With new homes coming to the area, the connector will give Magnolia Point residents direct north-south access to the area’s two biggest east-west roads in University Parkway and State Road 70.
Under a construction reimbursement agreement, the county will pay Lakewood Ranch-based Neal $460,000 to build the road. Kamiya said it is the most efficient way to build the road as Neal will already have a construction crew installing streets in the Magnolia Point community. The amount of traffic will increase once the road is complete, Kamiya said. However, he doesn’t see Tuttle becoming a major route like nearby Lockwood Ridge Road.
“I think it helps the whole area balance out,” he said.
Neal Communities President Pat Neal said the county was “very interested” in having him build the Tuttle connector when his plans for Magnolia Point became official. He closed on the land July 10, buying the acreage from Manatee-Sarasota ophthalmologist Prabin Mishra for $1.43 million.
Magnolia Point is one of two Neal Communities under construction in the Whitfield-Tuttle area. It and the 45-home Woodland Trace are being built to replace sales from Neal’s Woodbrook neighborhood at the intersection of Honore Avenue and Lockwood Ridge Road. Neal said Woodbrook is selling at a rate of six homes per month, which means it will likely sell out by the start of 2015. Magnolia Point and Woodland Trace homes will go on sale by January for prices starting in the mid-$200,000 range.