County Commission formally approves funding agreement with FDOT for work necessary to River Road project between U.S. 41 and I-75

Road swap still on schedule to be completed by end of calendar year

A map shows the project location. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With a unanimous vote on Oct. 9, the Sarasota County Commission took another step forward in the process to achieve improvements of River Road that have been sought for decades.

The board formally approved an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for project development and environmental re-evaluation (PD&E), right of way acquisition, and the design for the improvements to River Road between U.S. 41 and Interstate 75.

The expense has been estimated at $3.5 million, according to a staff memo provided to the board in advance of its regular meeting on Oct. 9. The county will match that with $3.5 million, a staff memo pointed out.

Within the same motion — made by Commissioner Alan Maio — the board also amended its 2019 fiscal year budget to appropriate county and grant funding totaling $7,993,333 for the River Road widening project.

In May, the commissioners consented to terms with FDOT for the River Road improvements between U.S. 41 and I-75. That agreement was in the context of a planned road swap with FDOT, through which the state would take over authority of River Road between U.S. 41 and I-75, and the county would take over responsibility for roads on Siesta Key, including Stickney Point Road west of U.S. 41 and Siesta Drive west of the north bridge on that road. Higel Avenue and the segment of Midnight Pass Road from Higel to the Stickney Point Road intersection also are part of the proposal.

Maps show the segments of road to be swapped. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Oct. 9 staff memo pointed out, “County and FDOT staff are in the process of developing terms of a subsequent final proposed agreement for a jurisdictional road transfer … and Project construction funding. This subsequent agreement is planned to be scheduled for Board consideration [late this calendar year].”

The memo further noted that the construction plans for the River Road improvements were completed in 2004 and then updated twice — in 2008 and 2012. However, no funding was available for their implementation.

Additionally, it said, “Right-of-way acquisition has been ongoing.”

The memo also pointed out that the FDOT agreement “provides funding for the County to update the Project regulatory permits [and] design plans,” along with the completion of the purchase of the remaining right of way. The acquisition of the final right of way properties and the design work are expected to be completed by Aug. 31, 2020, the memo said.

“Pending FDOT work program appropriations,” the memo continued, “the construction contract is expected to be ready for FDOT letting as follows”:

  • River Road from U.S. 41 to West Villages Parkway by Dec. 31, 2020.
  • River Road from West Villages Parkway to I-75 in FDOT’s 2024 fiscal year.