Legacy Trail Laurel Road Pedestrian Overpass to be focus of FDOT public meeting

County has had to relocate four utility lines in advance of the start of construction

This is the design of the Laurel Road overpass for The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy FDOT and Sarasota County

On Monday, Oct. 30, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will hold a public information meeting regarding construction of the Laurel Road Legacy Trail Pedestrian Overpass in Sarasota County, FDOT has announced.

The session has been scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Laurel Civic Association’s Sandra Sims Terry Community Center, located at 509 Collins Road in Laurel. “FDOT will hold this meeting to give interested persons the opportunity to talk one-on-one with staff and make comments about the project,” a news release says. The meeting will feature an open house format with no formal presentation, the release notes.

The $2-million project is set to begin in early November, with completion expected in the late summer or early fall of 2018, the release notes.

A Sarasota County fact sheet about the undertaking noted that the bridge will be 90 feet long, and the pedestrian multi-use pathway will be 12 feet wide to comply with Americans with Disability Act standards.

The project was the focus of several Sarasota County Commission discussions last year, as board members wanted to see the overpass completed as soon as possible, but they were concerned about the need to relocate a 30-inch water line that serves 60% of the county’s customers.

Additionally, they learned, the county would have to move an 18-inch sewer force main that staff also called a critical piece of infrastructure.

As it turned out, the county did have to relocate those lines. The county fact sheet about the overpass says, “Sarasota County has four critical utility lines that will be relocated along the northernmost lane of Laurel Road.” Along with the water main and the force main, the others are a 6-inch force main and a 10-inch water main.

A graphic shows the location of the utility lines project for Sarasota County. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The point of contention between county staff and FDOT was the initial design of the overpass, as the bridge would put a lot of weight on the water main and hinder access to it, then-Chief County Engineer Isaac Brownman said during the June 7, 2016 County Commission meeting.

Because of the use of federal funding for the project, Brownman informed the board later, the state had to proceed on the timeline FDOT had planned, which meant no “wiggle room” for redesigning the bridge so the water line and sewer force main could remain in place.

“Is this bridge being over-designed from a weight aspect” and possibly even over-designed in general, Commissioner Charles Hines asked during that June 7, 2016 meeting.

Brownman replied that he was not sure about “the thought process” that went into FDOT’s planning.

“This potential design is distinctive,” Brownman added, noting that it does not incorporate pillars. “It’s a stabilized earth structure with a massive foundation underneath.”

The county fact sheet about the project that was issued earlier this year notes, “The design of the pedestrian bridge minimizes impacts to existing historical monuments and the abandoned railroad tracks.”

Brownman further explained during that June 7, 2016 discussion that even if the bridge were redesigned, the county still would have to move the 6-inch force main and the 10-inch water main. Yet, that would be a far less difficult process, he added, as those were not as critical to operations.

In response to questions from then-Commissioner Christine Robinson, Brownman said his belief was that FDOT staff members had not realized the significance of the 30-inch water main and the 18-inch force main at the location of the overpass, and they blamed Sarasota County staff for not making the situation clear to them earlier.

On July 11, the county awarded a $1,061,207.75 contract to Spectrum Underground of Sarasota for the utility work necessary for FDOT to proceed with the overpass construction, according to a project update the county issued. In April 2016, Brownman estimated the cost of the work at $750,000. However, discussions about local government projects in recent months have pointed to the rising expense of construction.

The county’s utility line work began on Aug. 9, the project update noted.

The work has involved the installation of about 300 linear feet of the 18-inch force main, 200 linear feet of the 6-inch force main, 300 linear feet of the 30-inch water main and 100 linear feet of the 10-inch water main, the project update says.

Traffic has had to be rerouted while the work has been taking place.