MANATEE -- The assistant dean of a new $52 million dental college under construction asked the Manatee County Commission on Tuesday to extend bus routes to Lakewood Ranch.
LECOM Bradenton School of Dental Medicine will be operating a 100-chair clinic for low-income patients, those on fixed incomes, or people receiving medical assistance.
But potential patients would have no way to get to the dental college via mass transit because bus lines stop at State Road 64 and Interstate 75, said Francis M. Curd, assistant dean of clinical education at the new school.
He noted that in addition to patients going to the dental clinic, students, faculty and staff might also ride buses to Lakewood Ranch, about 20 miles from downtown Bradenton.
Also backing the proposal is Keiser University President David W. Reid, who said 900 students and 140 employees make their way to his campus at 6151 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota.
“We’re pleased to join them in support of this initiative to expand mass transit to our area, improving access. Everybody’s for that,” Reid said.
Commissioners were receptive.
“We definitely need this in our community, it will be an economic plus for our community,” said Commission Chairman Carol Whitmore.
The 100,000-square-foot dental college is under construction at the LECOM campus, 5000 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., and is slated to open for classes in July 2012.
Patient appointments will start in January 2013, and the clinic expects to treat 60,000 patients a year, he said.
The cost would be one-third of what typical dental care costs, Curd told the commissioners.
Curd asked the commission to extend the busline about 2.2 miles east on State Road 64 and south along Lakewood Ranch Boulevard another couple of miles to the college.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to get dental care,” said County Commissioner Joe McClash.
Commissioner Donna Hayes, who represents the Lakewood Ranch area, said there are many facilities in the area that need bus service, adding, “I just wanted my fellow commissioners to see the urgency of getting bus service out there.”
Whitmore suggested a partnership with Sarasota County to help finance the venture, and federal grants may also be a possibility to help pay for it, said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker.
Hunzeker said he would return to the commission with cost estimates.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.