Final four-lane segment of Fruitville Road allowed by Sarasota County policies included on 2020 priority list for regional consideration

Progress made on plans for Lorraine Road 

An aerial map shows the intersection of Lorraine Road with Fruitville Road just east of the Founders Club. Image from Google Maps

Four of the Sarasota County Commission’s top transportation priorities for 2020 are projects that would entail the widening of roadways to four lanes, based on a staff recommendation.

One of those would be the final segment of Fruitville Road for which such an improvement is possible, Paula Wiggins, manager of the county’s Transportation Planning Division, told the commissioners during their regular meeting on Nov. 5.

That segment would run from Sarasota Center Boulevard to Lorraine Road.

When Commissioner Michael Moran asked for an explanation of that for the general public, Wiggins replied that a section of the county’s Comprehensive Plan prohibits the widening of Fruitville Road to four lanes east of Lorraine Road to Verna Road, where Fruitville Road terminates.

Even though the traffic numbers being projected for the remainder of Fruitville Road to Verna indicate that widening that section to four lanes would be appropriate, Wiggins indicated, that would not be possible.

“We can’t go east of Lorraine … without a Comp Plan amendment?” Moran asked.

“Correct,” she responded.

Fruitville, she added, is “a four-lane major arterial that “basically spans the county” from U.S. 41 in the city of Sarasota to Verna Road,” except for the segment from Lorraine to Verna, Wiggins noted.

(The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) defines an arterial road as one that provides a continuous route to serve through traffic, high traffic volumes and long average trip lengths.)

This graphic explains the process for jurisdictions to win state approval for transportation projects, working through the MPO. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The Fruitville Road project that staff included on the priority list for the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is needed, Wiggins explained, because of all the new home construction in the eastern part of the county and “the significant amount of traffic coming from the north” out of Manatee County into Sarasota County. That traffic flow has increased, she noted, because of the recent opening of a northern section of Lorraine Road.

Wiggins was appearing before the board on Nov. 5 to win its approval of recommendations for the projects to be submitted to the MPO for consideration.

On a motion by Commissioner Alan Maio, the board members unanimously approved the staff list.

A chart Wiggins showed the commission said that all jurisdictions that are part of the MPO must submit their applications to the organization by Nov. 22 for pre-screening. The final applications are due on Dec. 5, the chart added.

A staff memo provided to the commissioners in advance of the Nov. 5 meeting noted that the MPO board “is expected to consider the Sarasota County priorities along with those from the other jurisdictions at [its] June 2020 regular meeting. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) staff will use the priorities during the Fall 2020 selection and program development process for the work program that will go into effect [on] July 1, 2021 … In general, project priorities that received funding will appear in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024/2025 or 2025/2026 of the State’s capital program,” which the Florida Legislature approves.

This Future Thoroughfare Map is in the county Comprehensive Plan. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As for the plans for Lorraine Road in Sarasota County: Commissioner Maio reminded his colleagues later on Nov. 5, during his report to the board, that he had been attending meetings on their behalf to keep abreast of action necessary for the project.

He pointed out that Lorraine would run from Fruitville Road south to an intersection with Knights Trail Road “a bit north of Rustic Road.”

“Some great progress has been made,” Maio continued, in regard to the necessary right of way acquisition for that project. All of the property owners, he pointed out, “have agreed to the dedication of all the right of way to get the road through. This is an absolutely major breakthrough.”

Additionally, he explained, county staff is working on a Comprehensive Plan amendment that calls for officially adding Lorraine Road to the county’s Future Thoroughfare Plan.

Maio added that, given the intent for Lorraine Road’s route, the Future Thoroughfare Plan would make Rustic Road a two-lane local road instead of a four-lane divided route, as previously proposed. “We don’t need two arterials running in the same path a short distance apart.”

The Comprehensive Plan amendment tentatively is scheduled to be heard by the county’s Planning Commission this month and by the County Commission in January 2020, Maio added. “Staff gets four stars,” he said, for its efforts to move that process along.

Other 2020 priorities

The projects highlighted in red on this chart are those that would entail roadway widening to four lanes. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Along with the Fruitville Road segment, the other 2020 priority projects that would entail widening to four lanes would be as follows:

  • Honore Avenue from 17th Street to Fruitville Road.
  • Proctor Road from McIntosh Road to Honore Avenue.
  • Honore Avenue from DeSoto Road to 17th Street.

Wiggins noted that the Proctor Road project originally entailed the construction of sidewalks only, adding that those “are desperately needed.” The design for the widening initiative will include sidewalks, she said.

The top priority among staff’s recommendations to the commissioners is the creation of a full interchange for State Road 681 at Interstate 75. That would include southbound traffic, Wiggins noted; it would facilitate traffic flow for developments that will be constructed east of Clark Road.

Among other projects — for which staff also will seek funding through the Transportation Regional Incentive Program (TRIP), Wiggins said — will be a roundabout at the intersection of Cattlemen Road and Richardson Road.

This graphic shows that the Sarasota-Manatee MPO receives about $10 million a year from FDOT for transportation projects. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The TRIP program, which is a state grant initiative, requires a 50% local match, Wiggins noted. To be eligible for funding, she continued, the proposed improvements must be considered to have regional value for Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.

As Wiggins was wrapping up her comments on Nov. 5, Chair Charles Hines joked that he was going to frame one of her graphics and hang it in his office. That graphic had lines drawn through projects designed to improve River Road.

Thanks to a road swap agreement the commission approved in early October, FDOT will be taking over authority for River Road and speeding up improvements on that major route in South County.