Initiative will be third for Sarasota County
During numerous Sarasota County Commission hearings over the past few years, regarding projects proposed for the eastern part of the county, residents have complained about increasing congestion on Fruitville Road, which is their primary east-west route.
Some have talked about losing customers for their businesses, while others have mentioned the unpredictability about the amount of time they need to reach a specific location via Fruitville Road.
That unpredictability likely will worsen next year, as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) issued a news release last week, saying that, in the fall of 2024, it plans to begin work on a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) for Interstate 75 at Fruitville Road.
The expense of that undertaking has been put at $192 million. It will be the third such interchange in Sarasota County.
The University Parkway DDI, which was the first in the state, opened in time to accommodate the tens of thousands of visitors the Sarasota County Commission anticipated for the 2017 World Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park, which is south of University Parkway, near I-75.
Work on a second Diverging Diamond interchange began on Clark Road in Sarasota in mid-October 2021. That $52.6-milliion project is scheduled to be completed in late 2024, FDOT noted in its latest weekly transportation project updates for Sarasota County.
In conjunction with the construction of the DDI at the Fruitville Road interchange, FDOT says, the project will widen approximately 2 miles of I-75, “from Palmer Boulevard to north of Fruitville Road, which will include the replacement of the existing bridges over Fruitville Road and the southbound bridge over Palmer Boulevard. Additionally, auxiliary lanes will be constructed between the Bee Ridge Road and Fruitville interchanges in both directions. The project will also include the widening of approximately 1.6 miles of Fruitville Road from Honore Avenue to east of Coburn Road.”
The initiative is part of a proposal that Gov. Ron DeSantis requested of the 2023 Legislature. The formal name for the governor’s idea, which the Legislature approved, is Moving Florida Forward. When he announced the plans in January, DeSantis said that if the Legislature supported them, the program would be able to leverage other funding for a total of $7 billion over the next four years.
In its Sept. 27 news release, FDOT explained, “As part of the initiative, [FDOT] identified a selection of critical needs on state-owned roadways. Additionally, FDOT identified previously approved projects with broad community support that only lacked funding to begin construction. Due to Florida’s sound fiscal health, $4 billion from the General Revenue Surplus has been dedicated to the Moving Florida Forward Infrastructure Initiative to advance construction on these projects around the state that will address congestion, improve safety, ensure the resiliency of our transportation network, and enhance Florida’s supply chain and economic growth.”
The release further noted that approximately 600 people are moving to the state every day.
State Rep. Fiona McFarland, R-Sarasota, pointed out in the release that, as chair of the Florida House Transportation Subcommittee, “the No. 1 thing [she hears] about from Floridians” are traffic complaints and driver safety concerns. She added that the “Moving Florida Forward investments will address both of those concerns, guaranteeing our transportation infrastructure is keeping pace with the demands of all our residents and visitors.”