Project anticipated to be completed in early 2025
The Florida Department of Transportation scheduled a brief ceremony on Friday, April 22, to celebrate “the beginning of major improvements to traffic flow, safety and drainage along River Road (State Road 777),” the department announced early this week.
The event, which is to be held from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., will mark the culmination of decades of planning for this 5-mile corridor by state and local leaders.
“A two-lane, undivided roadway, River Road is a main connector” for commuters, visitors and truck drivers traveling among Interstate 75, U.S. 41, State Road 776 “and natural destinations in the area,” a news release explains. “The road is used heavily” by those in North Port and Englewood, as well as homeowners in the growing number of nearby developments, the release points out.
“River Road also is an evacuation route for Englewood, North Port and Venice,” the release notes.
Additionally, the corridor provides access to Jelks Preserve, Blue Heron Park and other natural areas, the release says. In fact, the Florida Department of Transportation points out, the project will include two wildlife crossings in the form of culverts under the road, to allow animals to pass safely under the traffic flow. The wildlife crossings will be located north of Tempest Harbor Loop and north of Stoneycreek Boulevard.
The April 22 event will be held at the terminus of River Road east of the I-75 interchange, near 3001 State Road 777 in Venice, the release continues. “Area leaders will discuss the history and importance of this project of regional significance,” the release notes.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) awarded the contract for the $47.5-million project to The de Moya Group, which is based in Hialeah, the webpages for the initiative add. Construction began on Feb. 7, with completion of the work anticipated in early 2025, FDOT says on the project webpages.
The FDOT contract calls for the widening of River Road to six lanes between U.S. 41 and Center Road and to four lanes between Center Road and I-75. To enhance safety, the project will encompass the installation of raised, grassed medians; streetlights; and a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on both sides of the roadway.
The project limits encompass 5.06 miles, FDOT’s webpages say. Intersections at East Venice Avenue, Center Road and West Villages Parkway have traffic signals, the webpages add. The road’s 45 mph speed limit will not change, FDOT points out.
The typical section of the roadway “will be elevated at or above the 100-year flood elevation,” FDOT’s webpages note. Along with a raised median, curbs, and gutters will be installed.
For decades, Sarasota County commissioners pleaded with FDOT representatives to make improvements to River Road a priority, not only because of the highway’s importance as an evacuation route — for residents of Charlotte County as well as those in south Sarasota County — but also because of the residential growth in the area. However, state leaders made it clear that as long as River Road was under the authority of the county, the improvements could not be given a high priority.
Finally, in September 2017, then-Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer announced that staff had begun collaborating with FDOT about the potential swap of River Road to FDOT, in exchange for the county’s assuming control of roads on Siesta Key. The final formal County Commission vote on that swap came in July 2020. The last steps in the process took place later that year.
For more information, visit the project website at http://www.swflroads.com/riverroad/us41toi75/.