Politics & Government

Obama approves $500K for Manatee-Sarasota traffic system

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan voted against the $450 billion omnibus spending bill signed into law by President Barack Obama this week, but that didn’t stop him from bragging about the funding it includes for projects in his district.

“I am not opposed to worthwhile spending on important public projects,” Buchanan said in a statement. “But this bill spends too much money at a time of record deficits. We need to change the way we do business in Washington and cut wasteful spending.”

The biggest slice for a Manatee County project was $500,000 for a long-planned traffic management system for Manatee and Sarasota counties.

“This funding will allow Sarasota and Manatee counties to coordinate efforts to monitor and improve the flow of traffic,” Buchanan said. “The project will reduce congestion, increase safety, and conserve energy.”

Buchanan said the project is expected to reduce vehicular delay by 9.5 million hours per year and reduce fuel consumption by 3.8 million gallons per year.

“Congressman Buchanan’s help has been essential in enabling us to implement a high-tech signal-control system and to construct a joint Sarasota-Manatee regional traffic management center to provide coordinated, efficient traffic management,” said Jon Thaxton, Sarasota County Commission chair, in the release. “With these federal dollars, we can provide Sarasota and Manatee county citizens with an advanced traffic-management system that improves traffic flow and safety.”

In all, Buchanan said the spending measure included a total of $3.1 million for projects in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, including:

- $250,000 for a planned College of Nursing at University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee. The funding will be used for the development of a teaching simulation laboratory, equipping a videoconference classroom, and the development of Web, on-site, and blended courses.

- $100,000 for New College of Florida to improve the digital assets at the Jane Bancroft Cook Library, a joint-use facility for New College of Florida, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida, and residents of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

- $1.5 million for the Science Consortium for Ocean Replenishment at Mote Marine, a multi-organization group researching ways to preserve and enhance saltwater sports fisheries.

The bill also includes funding for several health and community centers in Sarasota, North Port and Englewood.