MANATEE -- Ellenton residents may soon be allowed to ride their golf carts on the sidewalk along U.S. 301.
But before golf carts will be permitted on the sidewalk along U.S. 301 between 60th Avenue East and Erie Road/Old Tampa Road, the sidewalk must be widened to 12 feet at a cost of approximately $3.3 million, according to a Florida Department of Transportation official.
Funding for this improvement won't be brought before the county commission until spring 2017 when the county's public works department presents the 2017 Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization priority projects for considerations since the 2016 priorities have already been recommended, according to an email sent from Ron Schulhofer, the county's public works director, to commissioners last week.
"Soliciting funding through the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization for increasing the sidewalk width and Federal Highway Administration approval of an exception request will be required in order for FDOT to support the request for golf cart use on sidewalks along U.S. 301," Schulhofer said in the email.
Residents in Ellenton have previously been vocal about allowing golf carts on the sidewalks along U.S. 301, but since it is a U.S. highway built with federal funds, a request such as this has to be submitted to FDOT, which then passes along the request to the federal government.
In a letter dated April 12, FDOT District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway said that he will "support the request with increased sidewalk width to 12 feet with approval of the exception request from Federal Highway Administration."
The sidewalk is currently 8 feet wide, which is the minimum width in the state statutes, according to the letter.
"Allowing golf carts to legally utilize the sidewalk would increase the golf cart frequency on the facility thus increasing conflicts," Hattaway said in the letter. "We developed a proposal to alleviate these concerns by increasing the width to 12 feet along the majority of segment with a 10 foot minimum width along sections with restricted space."
Commissioners adopted a new policy back in 2014 that requests for golf cart usage on state or U.S. highways would be submitted to the county, then sent to FDOT. Then in February 2015, the county provided petitions and a request to FDOT to allow golf carts along this stretch of U.S. 301, according to the email from Schulhofer.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.