SARASOTA -- Motorists could soon see Nathan Benderson Park on Interstate 75 signs at the Fruitville Road interchange.
On Tuesday, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved the addition of the park and venue of the 2017 World Rowing Championships to I-75 signs at the Fruitville Road interchange directing motorists to the park. The commission will now send a letter to both the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and Florida Department of Transportation requesting the signage for the park. FDOT has to receive a written request from the commission and the Sarasota/Manatee MPO.
Sarasota Commissioner Christine Robinson said she's attacked the issue from every direction and "this is the last effort."
"The congestion at University (Parkway) is heavier than it is on Fruitville," she said. "Perhaps it is not such a bad idea to steer people on Fruitville then onto Cattlemen Road."
According to a letter from assistant county administrator Mark Cunningham, to county Administrator Tom Harmer, FDOT is "agreeable with signing Benderson Park on I-75 for both the northbound and southbound directions."
"The intent of the signage is to provide direction and other pertinent information about the county's Nathan Benderson Park to interstate travelers," the letter reads. "Although there are restrictions associated with interstate signage, the FDOT Central Office granted approval to evaluate the park as a major tourist attraction due to its regional importance and types of events being planned and held at the county-owned facility."
Sarasota Commissioner Alan Maio said the signage would be great.
FDOT is "fine with northbound and southbound on Fruitville, which I think is great and will circulate a lot of people off that way," he said.
Before the park can be signed on I-75, FDOT has four conditions, according to the Sarasota County letter:
A written request about the park signage on I-75 from the Sarasota/Manatee MPO and Sarasota County Commission.
FDOT will try to incorporate the southbound signage installation into the University Park diverging diamond project when construction begins in August.
FDOT is OK with adding the park to the northbound sign ahead of the Fruitville Road interchange project, which has only been funded for design.
FDOT will design and determine optimal locations and the county will fund construction and installation of all signs except the I-75 southbound sign.
Nathan Benderson Park was previously considered to be added to the sign on I-75 southbound at University Parkway, which would have required one of four existing destinations -- New College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the Sarasota Kennel Club dog track and Ringling Museum of Art -- to be removed to make way for the rowing facility. FDOT allows a maximum of two signs with two destinations each before an exit, and these four destinations are already signed at the southbound I-75 and University Parkway location.
County staff also looked into adding signage off the interstate such as "Fruitville Road and other side streets to direct visitors to the park," according to the county letter.
Sarasota Commissioner Charles Hines suggested looking into also having temporary signage or the venue placed on the interstate's overhead signs ahead of a major event at Benderson Park.
"People can see that even beginning up in Manatee County as they are coming south," he said.
Also on Tuesday, the commission agreed to have the joint Oct. 29 meeting with the Manatee County Commission in Manatee County because the last one was held in Sarasota County.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.