A proposed Interstate 75 overpass, which officials say will relieve congested University Parkway and Fruitville Road corridors, passed its first hurdle Thursday.
During Thursday’s meeting, the planning commission unanimously approved the Comprehensive Plan Amendment to add the four-lane overpass connecting Lakewood Ranch to near the southern portion of Nathan Benderson Park’s lake.
“We need to address other means of being able to get motorists around,” said Paula Wiggins, the county’s transportation planning manager. “There is a need for an additional east-west connector.”
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While there is no start date for the proposed overpass, the amendment will go before the Sarasota County Commission. The first of two required hearings before the county commission to transmit the amendment to the state is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 24 while the second hearing has yet to be scheduled, according to Jason Bartolone, county spokesman.
Area residents spoke both for and against the proposed location during the public hearing with the general sentiment “not in my backyard.”
John Spillane, president of The Meadows Community Association, said there is concern that the proposed location will adversely create cut through traffic on southern portion of Nathan Benderson Park.
“We aren’t totally convinced that southern alternative is the best option,” he said.
Jay Brady, manager of The Meadows Community Association, added: “The Desoto Road corridor really deserves some full analysis.”
The overpass is a great idea as it creates connectivity, said Gary Heffner, chairman of the Fruitville 210 Community Alliance.
“We felt that it would be really an asset to the community,” he said, adding that they would like to see it be multi-modal for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Sarasota County officials are unable to say when motorists can expect to see cranes and other construction materials but are estimating it will be an approximately $20 million project.
“This puts us in a better position once when we have design and permits in place,” Wiggins has previously said. “Having the roadway on the Comprehensive Plan, it increases our chances of getting funding sooner than later.”
Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the developer of Lakewood Ranch, is currently working on the project’s design and permitting phases and estimates that it will be a fully permitted project by the end of 2017.
While SMR is not required to do the construction, the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District, per the Transportation Facilities Agreement between the county and SMR for the Villages of Lakewood Ranch South DRI, is “eligible to receive a reimbursement from mobility fees for the Overpass project (design, engineering and permitting) up to $1,154,000,” Bartolone has said.
SMR is also extending both Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Lorraine Road down to Fruitville Road, which should be done by June 2017, according to Richard Bedford, SMR vice president of planning.