A proposed Interstate 75 overpass that would link Cattlemen Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, creating a new east-west connector to relieve traffic congestion, won the a stamp of approval from the Sarasota County Commission on Tuesday.
Commissioners approved the first reading of a resolution that would allow the county to seek state and federal funding for the four-lane flyover, or overpass.
During a 52-minute hearing, members of the public strongly supported the need for the overpass, although there was disagreement over where it should be located.
Some in the audience thought that the proposed connector should go all the way from Lakewood Ranch to Honore Avenue, and that Honore should be four-laned.
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But as a compromise, staff selected the alternative that would connect Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Cattlemen Road on the south end of the big lake at Nathan Benderson Park, said Paula Wiggins, Sarasota County’s transportation planning manager.
Other alternatives were rejected as either being too close to University Parkway or encountering too much public opposition, Wiggins said.
“We believe the proposed location of the overpass is correct and we support it,” Howard Finkle, president of the Longwood Run Community Association, said. “It will relieve some of the pressure from University Parkway.”
Gary Heffner, chairman of Fruitville 210 Community Alliance, also supported the overpass.
“It will aid in keeping traffic off University and Fruitville. We accept the compromise that is before us today,” Heffner said.
The overpass will help alleviate traffic congestion, rather than add to it, he said.
Richard Bedford, vice president of planning for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, supported the compromise location of the overpass as well.
Bedford called the alternative the best location, and said that it would be pedestrian friendly.
SMR is responsible for designing, permitting and engineering the overpass, but not for constructing it.
County Commissioner Alan Maio called the proposed overpass, combined with the diverging diamond at University Parkway and I-75, and the extension of Lorraine Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Fruitville Road as an “important, multifaceted infrastructure project.”
Commissioners will hold a second and final public hearing April 25. A start date has not been set for beginning construction of the overpass.