Top 13 highway projects in Manatee covered by stimulus

MANATEE — A reduction in federal economic-stimulus money apparently won’t affect Manatee County’s top highway projects in Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Palmetto.

A reduction from a previous projection, however, might eliminate plans to resurface University Parkway. But hearing that Tuesday, a county commissioner said he would strive to make up the shortfall and get the work done.

The Sarasota-Bradenton area will get $14,136,819, the Federal Highway Administration said Tuesday in formally releasing the $27.5 billion that the stimulus package set aside for highway improvements nationwide.

That’s about $860,000 less than the $15 million state transportation officials had estimated as recently as Monday, a figure that the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization used to adopt a revised priority project list the same day.

The two-county transportation planning board also decreed that both counties would evenly split any stimulus money. Based on the federal figure, each county would get $7,068,409.50.

That would be enough to cover Manatee’s top 13 projects, all within the cities of Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Palmetto, with roughly $2.48 million left over.

The stimulus money for highway projects is a year’s worth of transportation money that the area otherwise would not have gotten, Michael Howe, the MPO’s executive director, said.

“To get one year of extra dollars, at a time when the economy is bad, it’s greatly welcomed and appreciated,” he said.

Florida will get nearly $1.35 billion for highway improvements overall, third-most behind California and Texas, the federal highway agency said. Of that, $444.4 million must be spent in specific areas while the remaining $902.3 million can be spent anywhere in the state.

That doesn’t include stimulus money set aside for transit, railroads, airports and seaports. The Federal Transit Administration estimates it will award the Sarasota-Bradenton area nearly $9.24 million for capital purchases. Railroads, seaports and airports will have to apply for funding through their respective programs.

The money coming for Manatee highways is about $720,000 less than the estimated cost of the 14th project on the list: resurfacing University Parkway between Interstate 75 and U.S. 301.

Manatee officials have said they would fund each project on their list in order.

It’s possible the county could cover the difference by using its own funds or seeking money from other places that don’t meet deadlines to spend it, county commissioner Joe McClash said. “If we need to kick in another $700,000 to do the project, we’ll kick it in,” he said. “The road needs to be resurfaced. We do have the resources in the county to come up with the extra money.”

The reduction in local stimulus funding also could reduce money for Sarasota County’s top six projects by roughly 30 percent each, as that county’s priority list was based on getting $10 million, Howe said.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.