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Little input from public on 25-year transportation plan

BRADENTON — The chance to help determine the future of the Manatee/Sarasota region’s transportation system drew few residents to a public workshop Thursday.

Less than a handful of people unaffiliated with local government agencies or consultants attended the meeting at Bradenton Auditorium, the second of two designed to get public input for a 25-year transportation plan. Organizers said the first, held Wednesday in Sarasota, also drew a sparse crowd, partly because of a last-minute change in meeting locations because of plumbing problems at the original site.

“I’m kind of disappointed in the turnout, but we have gotten some good comments tonight (Thursday),” said Whit Blanton of Renaissance Planning Group, the Orlando consultant hired to update the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long-range plan.

The MPO is a board of elected officials that oversees transportation priorities and planning for the two-county region. Federal law requires it to update the plan, which outlines planned projects in the next quarter-century, every five years. The latest update is due this year.

Among those at the workshop was John Woolley, a Tara resident who came to voice his opposition to a proposed extension of Tara Boulevard across the Braden River.

But he also advocated greater mass transit, saying there’s too little land and money available to keep widening roads.

“I think mass transit is really the name of the game,” he said. “It would be a better use of money.”

Tim Lacher of Bradenton also praised mass transit, saying he believes merging the two counties’ bus systems would be more efficient. But the biggest key is money, he said.

“There are a lot of projects that need to be done, but we don’t have the money,” he said.

About $3.78 billion is expected to be available for local transportation projects through 2035, Blanton said. But that won’t address all of the region’s needs, officials said.

“We’re trying to figure out where to spend our money,” and the plan will reflect those decisions, said Michael Howe, the MPO’s executive director.

Officials urged residents to visit the MPO’s website, www.mympo.org, to learn more about the update process and submit their opinions.

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

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