Construction completion expected in latter part of 2023
On Friday, Oct. 15, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) expects to launch its latest diverging diamond project in the area, which will be located at the Clark Road interchange with Interstate 75.
The eight-lane diverging diamond will be the primary focus of the undertaking. Nonetheless, the project also will encompass the reconstruction of all the on and off ramps in both the northbound and southbound directions on Clark Road; a new traffic signal mast arm for the intersection at Catamaran Drive; a new signal at Queensbury Boulevard; a 7-foot buffered bicycle lane and a 6-foot sidewalk along Clark Road in the project area; and the resurfacing of Clark Road.
The affected area of Clark will be the segment from west of Gantt Road to east of Hummingbird Avenue and from south of Clark to north of Proctor Road, FDOT says.
The total length is 0.913 miles, FDOT notes in its Five Year Work Program.
During an Oct. 7 webinar that FDOT staff hosted, Brian Bollas, the department’s community outreach manager, explained that the first steps in the undertaking will be the mobilization of equipment, the implementation of the maintenance of traffic plan, coordination of utility work, and then the construction of an I-75 auxiliary lane.
An auxiliary lane, he pointed out, is a simple lane that connects an on ramp from one interchange to the off ramp at the next interchange.
The auxiliary lane in this case will run northbound from Clark to Bee Ridge Road, Bollas added.
When FDOT constructs a diverging diamond at the Bee Ridge Road interchange, he noted, the southbound auxiliary lane will be constructed.
Although the Bee Ridge diverging diamond is part of FDOT’s plans, The Sarasota News Leader was unable to find a timeline this week for its construction.
Further, Bollas pointed out on Oct. 7, unless an emergency situation arises, interstate ramps will not be closed during the daytime; construction will be conducted at night.
Additionally, he said, lane closures on Clark Road also will be planned at night. If the closing of lanes must take place during the daytime, he added, the work will not be carried out during rush hour.
The following information about work hours and lane closures is included in FDOT’s District One Roadwatch Report for the week of Oct. 17:
- Motorists should expect single-lane closures on I-75 from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. through the duration of the construction.
- Motorists should expect double-lane closures on I-75 from 10 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. through the duration of the construction.
- Motorists should expect lane closures on State Road 72 (Clark Road) from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. through the duration of the construction.
- Motorists should expect lane shifts on I-75 and State Road 72 through the duration of the construction.
- Drivers should exercise caution and be aware of construction vehicles entering and exiting the interstate through the duration of the construction.
In early to mid-2022, Bollas continued during the webinar, construction of the diverging diamond and the noise walls on the north side of Clark Road will begin.
Those walls, which will be 22 feet high, he noted, will extend from Proctor Road to Catamaran Drive on the west side of I-75 and from Proctor to Queensbury Boulevard on the east side of the interstate.
In response to questions about why no noise walls have been planned on the southern side of Clark Road, Bollas explained that FDOT’s study to determine where noise walls would be built for this project was completed in 2012. Because of state and federal laws, he continued, the department had to consider a formula that takes into account the number of residences and businesses that would benefit from the reduction of decibels produced by the traffic. If that analysis shows the cost per benefiting residence or business is $42,000 or less, he added, then a noise wall is deemed financially feasible.
Since 2012, he acknowledged, considerable development has occurred on the southern side of the Clark Road project area. Nonetheless, he said, FDOT had to use only existing structures and those for which building permits had been issued when it undertook its study.
FDOT is engaged in a master plan involving the lanes it manages from Naples to just north of Bradenton, Bollas pointed out. Thus, it is possible that more noise walls could be constructed in the Clark Road project area as a result of the work produced through that initiative, he indicated. He advised interested persons to visit the website www.swflinterstates.com, where updates on that study will be provided. People can sign up for notifications through that website, he noted.
If all goes according to schedule, Bollas said, the new diverging diamond on Clark Road will open in the latter part of 2023.
Although FDOT’s webpages say the cost of the project is estimated at $62.4 million, details provided during the Oct. 7 webinar showed a lower expected figure: $52.6 million.
Sacyr Construction, which is based in Madrid, is the contractor handling the work. It has offices in Miami and Lakewood Ranch, a News Leader online search found.
In a fact sheet, FDOT explains that the diverging diamond design “provides a safety benefit because it reduces the number of potential conflict points through the elimination of potential crossing conflicts between vehicles turning left onto the freeway and opposing arterial [road] traffic.”
The first diverging diamond interchange in Sarasota County opened in May 2017, at University Parkway and I-75. Representatives of a consulting firm working with FDOT unveiled the design to the Sarasota and Manatee county commissioners during a joint meeting of the boards on April 16, 2013.
On March 25, 2014, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved a resolution in support of the diverging diamond proposal for University Parkway and urged FDOT to prioritize the project. The commissioners were thinking of the tens of thousands of visitors anticipated in the two-county area for the September 2017 World Rowing Championships scheduled for Nathan Benderson Park.
In fact, then-Commissioner Charles Hines become one of the leading advocates for the diverging diamond at University Parkway, taking numerous opportunities to travel to Tallahassee to talk about it with state leaders.
The diverging diamond at University Parkway and I-75 cost $75.4 million, FDOT reported.