Project scheduled to be completed by ‘winter 2024’
Editor’s note: This article was updated early in the afternoon of Dec. 1 to add that FDOT is paying for the overpasses, not Sarasota County.
On Nov. 27, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began its construction of the Legacy Trail pedestrian and bicycle overpasses that will cross Bee Ridge Road and Clark Road, the department announced.
“The primary purpose [of that undertaking] is to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety for trail users,” a news release said. “Retaining wall ramps will be constructed on both approaches to each bridge for stability and aesthetics along with minor roadway and trail modifications to accommodate the new bridges. New signalization at both intersections will also provide a safer crossing,” the release noted.
As the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) staff was proceeding with its work on extending The Legacy Trail from Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch to downtown Sarasota, and from the City of Venice to the City of North Port, county commissioners reminded the public on a number of occasions that FDOT would construct those overpasses.
On April 23, 2019, FDOT agreed to assume the responsibility for the design and construction of those structures. The department had planned to start the work in November 2022, Nicole Rissler, director of PRNR, told the county commissioners in May 2021. She added that they were on FDOT’s timeline to be complete in November 2024.
After more than 70% of county voters in November 2018 approved a $65-million bond referendum to enable the county to proceed with the extensions, commissioners urged the PRNR staff to focus on getting segments completed as quickly as possible. The focus, they said, should be on the ground-level sections.
The nonprofit Friends of the Legacy Trail, which has advocated through the years for the transformation of former railway right of way into a nearly 30-mile-long bicycle/pedestrian route, maintains Trail usage data on its website.
Through October, the latest chart shows, 567,951 users had been documented this year. A new record of 649,512 users was set in 2022, the chart notes.
A member of the nonprofit, Steve Martin, explains on the website how he arrives at the statistics.
The estimated expense of constructing the overpasses is $13.2 million, an FDOT webpage says. Nicole Rissler, the county’s director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, confirmed for The Sarasota News Leader that the county is not paying for the overpasses; FDOT is covering the cost.
The Friends of the Legacy Trail has included the following extra details about the project on its website:
- The overpasses will be 12 feet wide, constructed with the same method used for the Laurel Road overpass of The Legacy Trail. “This type of construction uses reinforced earth on the approaches to the mid-span.Click herefor details of this method.”
- The design of the Clark Road overpass “is influenced by the need for compatibility with a future project to straighten the McIntosh Road intersection at Clark Road. Funding for straightening the McIntosh intersection has yet to be made available, “so it is unlikely this project will start any time soon.”
- After the McIntosh Road intersection has been straightened, “it will be necessary for trail users to cross McIntosh immediately after (or before if traveling south) crossing the overpass.” One conceptual plan suggested by Spencer Anderson, director of the Sarasota County Public Works Department, calls for slightly raising McIntosh Road and having the Trail go under the road.
“The brief project will be completed by winter 2024,” the FDOT news release said. “To minimize inconvenience, needed shoulder and/or lane closures will be predominantly limited to overnight hours,” the FDOT release added.
For information or design renderings, visit https://www.swflroads.com/project/440448-1.