Another improvement and an expansion of The Legacy Trail win County Commission support

Design work authorized for overpass at Tuttle Avenue and initial step taken to create connector from 17th Street Park to Benderson Park

This graphic shows facets of the plans for the 17th Street Park connector to Benderson Park. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Thanks to two votes on Jan. 30, Sarasota County staff is moving ahead with one improvement to The Legacy Trail, plus an extension of that bicycle-pedestrian route, which will take it north to Benderson Park.

First, in unanimously approving their Jan. 30 Consent Agenda of routine business matters, the county commissioners authorized County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to execute a $440,267 contract with the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota to design what officially is being called the Nathan Benderson Park Connector Trail, a county staff memo explains. That new segment of The Legacy Trail will run along the north side of 17th Street in Sarasota until it reaches the Honore Avenue intersection. From there, the memo adds, the connector will proceed north along the eastern edge of Honore to the southern edge of Benderson Park, which is located slightly south of University Parkway.

“From Benderson Park,” the memo notes, “the trail will run easterly to the existing trail system within Nathan Benderson Park.”

The route will be approximately 1.5 miles in length, the memo adds. The trail itself will be 12 feet wide, with an asphalt surface. The design is to include lighting, a new traffic signal and modifications to an existing traffic light, as well, the memo says.

Funding for the design has been included in the latest version of the county’s Capital Improvement Program; the money will come from bonds that will be backed by revenue generated from the next iteration of the county’s penny sales tax — or Surtax — program. Thanks to voter approval of a referendum during the November 2022 General Election, the Surtax 4 program will commence on Jan. 1, 2025 and continue through Dec. 31, 2039.

This graphic shows the proposed site of the Tuttle Avenue overpass. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The second initiative that won full support of the commissioners on Jan. 30 is the design of a Tuttle Avenue overpass for The Legacy Trail in Sarasota. That agenda item was a Presentation Upon Request, meaning that unless a board member wanted to hear details of the proposal, no hearing would be conducted.

No commissioner asked for a presentation, and Chair Michael Moran noted that no one had signed up to address the board members on the topic. Thus, Moran closed the hearing, and Commissioner Ron Cutsinger then made a motion to approve a budget amendment that appropriated funding for the Capital Improvement Program project at an expense of $1,232,188.

A county staff memo regarding that item said that $990,000 of the above amount would come in the form of a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). North County Park Impact Fees will cover the remainder of the design expense, the memo added.

The memo also explained, “The pedestrian overpass where The Legacy Trail crosses Tuttle Avenue is vital to creating livable, attractive, and vibrant communities. With nearly 650,000 users annually, The Legacy Trail provides mobility access to all users regardless of age, ability, income, race, and ethnicity. It will provide safe, comfortable, and convenient access to community destinations and public places ….”

Moreover, the memo pointed out, “The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) work program identified the design and construction of two pedestrian overpasses at State Road (SR) 72 (Clark Road) and SR 758 (Bee Ridge Road), which are now underway.”

FDOT began construction of the Bee Ridge Road overpass in November 2023, as noted in a county Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department PowerPoint presentation included in the Jan. 30 agenda packet. Construction of the Clark Road overpass started in December.

Those slides also reminded the commissioners that, in December 2023, they approved what are called Local Agency Program Agreements with FDOT for the design of pedestrian overpasses for The Legacy Trail at Bahia Vista Street and Beneva Road.

The staff memo added that the latest FDOT work program also includes the design of the Tuttle Avenue pedestrian overpass. Since the at-grade Legacy Trail has been completed from North Port to Sarasota, the memo noted, “[T]his [overpass] project will continue to enhance the safety of a highly used multi-use trail by separating bicyclists and pedestrians from vehicles crossing this intersection.”

County staff will work on the necessary documents needed to solicit bids for the design process, the staff memo added.

A Feb . 1 post on the nonprofit Friends of Legacy Trail Facebook page noted, “Another Step Towards Making Pedestrian Overpass at Tuttle Ave a Reality! Thanks to Our Generous Donors, [Friends of the Legacy Trail] Was Able to Help Pay for The Environmental Study to Make This Happen!” A county document included in the Jan. 30 agenda packet lists $20,500 as “Contributed Capital — Private Donation” for the initiative.

These are the latest data showing the numbers of users of The Legacy Trail. This is the link to the explanation about how the counts are derived. Image from the Friends of the Legacy Trail website

A related document in the Jan. 30 agenda packet shows that county staff has budgeted a total of $1,161,977 for this fiscal year for the design work and management of the project. That document also says that $70,211 has been included in the budget for the 2025 fiscal year, which will begin on Oct. 1. The total project expense through the 2028 fiscal year is $1,232,188, the chart notes.