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44th Ave. E. project slated for late 2010 start

MANATEE — A progress report on improvements to 44th Avenue East indicates construction will begin sometime in late 2010.

Staff from the Manatee County Public Works Department told the county commissioners Tuesday different phases of the project are at different stages of planning.

The project, in effect, extends Cortez Road eastward to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and would alleviate congestion on state roads 64 and 70.

Commissioner Joe McClash said after the meeting he was glad to see some movement on this project, which he said has been talked about for more than 20 years.

“It’s one of those things that’s disappointing because we haven’t put it under construction yet,” McClash said. “It’s frustrating because it was to be started years ago.”

He said the Public Works staff report was heartening because the county now has a team willing to carry out the county road plan.

“We have a project management team under the direction of Ron Schulhofer, who will execute the plan,” McClash said.

Schulhofer is Public Works Department director.

The section from First Street to 15th Street East was the farthest along in the process with 90 percent of the design plans completed and most of the permit applications submitted to the Southwest Florida Regional Water Management District.

The department staff has identified 33 parcels for right of way acquisition and has ordered appraisals for those properties.

Plans call for the existing roadway to be widened from two lanes to three, with the middle lane for left turns.

There are three major intersections that will need to be reworked, 301 Boulevard East, Ninth Street East, and 15th Street East.

Once 44th Avenue West crosses 15th Street West, where it now ends, it has to cross a large drainage ditch and a railroad right of way just west of 19th Street East, where the first phase ends.

All of the design and permit work for this phase, which is expected to cost about $9.1 million, is being done by county staff.

The second section from 19th Street East to 30th Street East, which becomes a four-lane road, travels through mostly undeveloped land and crosses the six-lane U.S. 301, creating a major intersection design.

From 30th Street East to 45th Street East, this phase follows some of the existing 44th Avenue East right of way.

Some of the design work for these phases will be done by an outside firm, such as the intersection at U.S. 301.

Construction work on the second phase is expected to begin in late 2010 and on the third phase, early 2011.

The estimated cost of these two phases is about $30.5 million, which includes design work, permit fees, land acquisition and construction.