July 6 ribbon cutting planned for first segment of Legacy Trail’s North Extension

County Commission gets updates on timeline for project steps, including Clark and Bee Ridge road overpasses

Asphalt has been laid on this stretch of The Legacy Trail between Proctor Road and Bahia Vista Street. Image courtesy Sarasota County

A July 6 ribbon-cutting ceremony has been planned to mark the opening of the first segment of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail, the director of Sarasota County’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) told the county commissioners this week.

“It’s very exciting,” Nicole Rissler said. “They are literally putting the final touches — landscaping and those kinds of things — out there” on the stretch from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota, she added of the contractor’s crews.

Jon F. Swift Construction of Sarasota has been handling the undertaking.

Then, on June 16, she told the commissioners on May 4, a groundbreaking will be held for the North Port connector, which Rissler discussed with the board members last month. She pointed out that that event is “right around the corner.”

The North Port connector should be finished in the fall of 2022, she said.

Before Rissler began her presentation, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis noted some “confusion out in the public” about the timelines for various aspects of the North Extension and the construction of the formal Legacy Trail connector to North Port. Lewis added that the projects are “basically two years ahead of our original schedule.”

This graphic shows the three segments of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Rissler pointed out that Segments 2 and 3 of the North Extension are due for completion in early 2022. They will encompass the rest of the Trail between Payne Park in downtown Sarasota and Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch.

Additionally, she said, the new Sarasota Springs Trailhead, on Webber Street, is expected to open in early 2022, to coincide with the public’s access to Segments 2 and 3.

“We believe [the Ashton Trailhead] will be very close behind that [Sarasota Springs facility],” Rissler added.

A slide she showed the board members listed the opening of the Ashton Trailhead as planned for “Spring 2022.”

Then the Pompano Trailhead, next to the Sarasota County Fairgrounds, is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2022, she continued. That will include 12 dedicated pickleball courts and the small community center that will be created through the renovation of the former driver’s license facility on Pompano Avenue.

Turning to the subject of the Bee Ridge Road and Clark Road overpasses for The Legacy Trail, Rissler told the commissioners that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) “is doing the design … in-house with their own staff.” County representatives have asked FDOT to present an update to the commissioners, during which renderings could be provided, she said. FDOT has informed county staff that the design process is not far enough along for that yet, she continued. “We are looking at a date” when the FDOT presentation would be appropriate, given that fact, Rissler added.

It does appear that the design work should be at the 90% mark by the end of this year, she noted.

And while FDOT originally had scheduled the start of the construction of those overpasses in its 2023 fiscal year, she continued, the department plans to begin the work in November 2022. The overpasses should be complete in November 2024, she added.

This chart in FDOT’s Five Year Work Program shows details about the overpasses project for The Legacy Trail. Image from FDOT

Moreover, Rissler pointed out, FDOT is working on a realignment of the intersection of McIntosh Road and Clark Road to facilitate the track of The Legacy Trail. That adjustment will be incorporated into the plans for the Clark Road overpass, she said.

When Commissioner Ron Cutsinger asked whether FDOT has allowed county staff to participate in the design of the overpasses, Rissler looked to other county staff members in the audience. She then turned back to Cutsinger and said, “Yes, our Capital Projects [team] is at the table.”

“Perfect,” Chair Alan Maio responded.

This chart in FDOT’s Five Year Work Program offers details about the work in progress regarding the realignment of the Clark Road/McIntosh Road intersection. Image from FDOT

Commissioner Michael Moran asked her why the schedule showed a lag of so many months between the expected completion of the design work — in March 2022 — and the start of the overpass construction.

“I don’t know specifically,” Rissler replied.

County Administrator Lewis explained that even though the design process was underway, FDOT was staying close to its original construction timeline for the projects, in coordination with other initiatives in its Five Year Work Plan.

Commissioner Christian Ziegler pointed out that PRNR staff has “really honored” the commissioners’ request for them to accelerate the construction of The Legacy Trail North Extension and the North Port connector. “I think this is going to be a great asset for the community.”

This graphic shows details about the three Legacy Trail connectors to North Port. Route 3 is being designed in comparable fashion to the existing Trail between Venice and Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Ziegler also asked Rissler about potential connections of the Trail to Nathan Benderson Park and Lakewood Ranch.

The Legacy Trail, she responded, “is truly the former railroad corridor,” which the county purchased for the project. Nonetheless, she added, “I think we have extremelygreat potential for the future …”

Because the Trail will cross Beneva Road, she noted, persons will be able to use sidewalks and bike lanes already in place if they want to connect to The Meadows, which is near University Parkway, and Benderson Park.

North of Fruitville Road, she continued, the railroad corridor is still in use. A corridor has to have been inactive for a certain number of years, she explained, before it can even be considered for a “rails to trails” project.