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Anna Maria Island SUN Trail deemed a priority

Cyclists ride on the sidewalk down Gulf Drive on the north end of Anna Maria Island.
Cyclists ride on the sidewalk down Gulf Drive on the north end of Anna Maria Island. Bradenton Herald file

The Sarasota Manatee/Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to prioritize the Anna Maria Island Trail on Monday.

As the board was voting to adopt the 2017 Project Priorities, the trail segments at Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach found themselves on several lists for funding, according to Colleen McGue, principal planner at MPO.

MPO recently submitted the trail to be considered for the Florida Greenways and Trails System Priority Map, which gets updated every five years. According to Zachary Burch of the Florida Department of Transportation, the AMI Trail Loop is but one option in FGTS’s potential selection of a North-South priority through Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Still, McGue sees it as a necessary addition. She points to a study done by Smart Growth America entitled “Dangerous by Design,” which ranked the Bradenton/Sarasota/North Port area as the 10th most dangerous metro area for walking in the United States.

“The MPO is actively worrking on improving bicycle and pedestrian safety in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and having safe and accessible trails to ride and walk on like the Gulf Coast Trail is part of improving safety in our area,” she says.

The greenway, if built, would be a Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail System extension that would loop from Holmes Beach on State Road 798 to the Marina-East Bay Drive and from Longboat Pass Bridge on Gulf Drive to 27th Street North in Bradenton Beach. According to McGue, the trail would fit within the existing right of way on Gulf Drive, with an 8 foot wide sidewalk on one side and a 10 foot wide, bi-directional cycle track on the other side of the road. Travel lanes would be 11 feet wide rather than the existing 12 foot wide lanes.

The project is expected to cost approximately $13 million according to recent estimates submitted by Bradenton and Holmes beaches.

McGue says that the funding for the project is likely to come from a combination of sources. The engineering, design and permitting costs have already been funded by a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, as the project design includes a storm water component that will help address the flooding on Gulf Drive during heavy rain. The remaining support will likely come from state and federal resources.

The final priority alignment, which will ultimately determine the AMI Trail Loop’s fate, is slated to conclude around December 2017. If selected as a priority trail, AMI Trail Loop would be added to the SUN Trail Map. According to FDOT’s website, the state allocates $25 million annually to the SUN Trail network from the redistribution of new vehicle tag revenues.

The Florida SUN Trail network is a statewide system of multi-use trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. The program, which is administered by FDOT, produces trails that are physically separated from vehicular traffic.

While the current timeline is uncertain, McGue says that if the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approves their requested alignment change from US 41 to the loop they will start to get a better sense of when they can expect funding. As it stands, she says that the earliest they could expect to see additional funding for the project beyond the amount that SWFMD allocated would be in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The Florida SUN Trail network is a statewide system of multi-use trails for bicyclists and pedestrians.

developing statewide system of multi-use trails for bicyclists and pedestrians.

As part of the 2017 Project Priorities, the Holmes Beach segment ranked #11 while the Bradenton Beach portion of the trail ranked #17 on the Congestion Management System Priority List. On the Transportation Alternatives Project Priority List, Holmes Beach is #6 and Bradenton Beach is #13, while on the Regional Trails Priority List Holmes Beach ranks #2 and Bradenton Beach #3.

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