FDOT to provide $2 million apiece for Legacy Trail overpasses at Beneva Road and Bahia Vista Street

County Commission approves inclusion of projects in county’s Capital Improvements Program

This graphic shows the location of the Bahia Vista Street overpass. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Sarasota County Commission this week took the first steps in a process that will end in the construction of two more overpasses of The Legacy Trail — involving Beneva Road and Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota.

On a unanimous vote, the board members approved what are called Local Agency Program Agreements with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), so the state can provide $2 million for each project.

The total estimated expense of each overpass is $2,221,688, according to formal resolutions that the commissioners approved on Dec. 12 to add the projects to the county’s Capital Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2024 through 2028. The rest of the funding will come from North County Park Impact Fees, county documents note.

The action came as FDOT is in the process of constructing two other Legacy Trail overpasses in the county — above Clark Road and Bee Ridge Road. The county is not paying for any facet of that work, Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, told The Sarasota News Leader.

A county staff memo included in the Dec. 12 commission meeting agenda packet pointed out, “The two pedestrian overpasses where The Legacy Trail crosses Beneva Road and Bahia Vista Street are 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 — whether walking, driving, bicycling, or taking public transportation.”

The nearly 30-mile-long Legacy Trail stretches from North Port to downtown Sarasota. County plans already have been discussed to extend it further north to Benderson Park, near University Parkway, and to tie it in eventually with other, similar trails in the state. Additionally, leaders of the City of Sarasota are working on how best to connect the Trail to the new Bobby Jones Nature Park, on part of the land where the city’s historic municipal golf course stands, at 1000 Circus Blvd.

The Dec. 12 county staff memo also noted that, with the at-grade segments of The Legacy Trail having been completed in 2022, the Beneva and Bahia Vista overpasses “will continue to enhance the safety of a highly used multi-use trail by separating bicyclists and pedestrians from vehicles crossing these intersections.”

This graphic shows the site of the Beneva Road overpass. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The next steps, the memo said, will be the soliciting of bids for the design work for the projects.

The Capital Improvement Program resolutions show outlays of funding for the overpasses through the 2026 fiscal year, which will end on Sept. 30, 2026.

During both the design and construction phases, the memo added, updates will be provided through The Legacy Trail page on the county website (www.scgov.net), the county’s weekly newsletter, social media and the nonprofit Friends of the Legacy Trail.

Leaders of the Friends of the Legacy Trail — especially the late Bruce Dillon of Nokomis — advocated for years for the transformation of the former Seminole Gulf Railway corridor into a protected path for bicyclists and pedestrians. Their efforts included working to gain support for the November 2018 General Election referendum, during which over 70% of the voters authorized the County Commission to issue up to $65 million in bonds to cover the expense of acquiring the corridor and making the necessary improvements.

As the News Leader has reported, Steve Martin of the Friends of the Legacy Trail provides monthly user data for The Legacy Trail. Through November, his chart on the nonprofit’s website shows, 622,999 users had been counted. The total for 2022 was 649,512.

Martin provides documentation, as well, on how he arrives at his figures.

The final segment of the North Extension of the Trail, to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota, opened on March 3, 2022, “two years and nine months ahead of the original schedule,” as Rissler of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department pointed out during the festivities held that day. The formal connector from Venice to North Port officially opened to the public on Sept. 9, 2022.