Design of North Port connector about 60% complete
Although rainstorms produced by Hurricane Sally’s passage through the Gulf of Mexico necessitated a pause in the progress earlier this week, construction of the initial segment of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail remains underway just south of Webber Street.
Sarasota County Capital Projects Director Carolyn Eastwood and Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR), offered that update during a Sept. 16 Facebook Live segment. As Rissler noted, staff provides monthly reports on the project via Sarasota County Government’s Facebook page.
Standing in front of the heavy construction equipment on Sept. 16, Eastwood said, “It’s a little wet to be moving dirt around.”
Their big news for viewers that day, Rissler pointed out, was that exactly one week earlier — on Sept. 9 — the County unanimously approved a contract amendment with Jon F. Swift Inc. of Sarasota for Segments 2 and 3 of the Trail, as well as for the construction of the Ashton Road and Webber Street trailheads and landscaping of Segment 1.
The contract amendment calls for the construction to take place up to 10 hours per day, Monday through Friday, “beginning no earlier than 7:00 A.M. and ending no later than 7:00 P.M., excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays.”
Among other facets of the document, it calls for trees close to work sites to be “boxed or otherwise protected against injury,” adding, “[I]n no case shall any tree be cut or removed without prior notification of the County.”
As Eastwood explained during the Sept. 16 Facebook Live event, the commissioners had asked that staff “expedite this project.” The best way to do that, staff determined, was to break it into segments, Eastwood added.
As a result, the project team settled on three sections of work, she continued. Segment 1 runs from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street; Segment 2 will stretch from Culverhouse Nature Park, located on Palmer Ranch, to Proctor Road; and Segment 3 will run from Bahia Vista to Fruitville Road. The North Extension will end at Payne Park in downtown Sarasota.
The commission action on Sept. 9 increased the Swift contract from $7,497,492 to $23,841,448.
On July 7, the board gave Swift the formal go-ahead for Segment 1, a county staff memo noted. Along with construction, the contract called for removal of railroad ties on the former CSX Transportation corridor, site preparation, mowing, and the removal of encroachments, Eastwood explained during the Facebook Live report. (Staff has been urging property owners along the North Extension corridor to take down fences and other structures that extend into the property the county purchased for the North Extension.)
In April 2019 and in late February, the County Commission authorized the issuance of two sets of bonds to cover all The Legacy Trail expenses, including the cost of creating a connector from Venice to North Port. The first set of bonds provided $37 million; the second set, $28,580,000. During the November 2018 General Election, more than 70% of the voters who cast ballots approved a referendum authorizing the issuance of up to $65 million for all the necessary projects.
The Sept. 9 staff memo for the commission pointed out that the work on Segments 2 and 3, as well as the Ashton and Webber trailheads, would begin this month. The timeline calls for completion in December 2021.
Officially, the Sept. 9 contract amendment gives Swift 462 days from that date to finish the work.
The final trailhead will be constructed on Pompano Avenue, next to the Sarasota County Fairgrounds. That initiative is planned to begin in the spring of 2021, Eastwood said on Sept. 16.
“That trailhead will be very interesting,” she added, as it will include pickleball courts, a bicycle safety course and restrooms.
“It’s kind of the ‘super trailhead,’” Rissler pointed out.
When Rissler asked about the status of the North Port connector, Eastwood replied that the design is “roughly about 60% complete.”
The contract amendment for that work will be brought to the commission at a later date, the Sept. 9 staff memo noted.
The goal is to have all segments of the North Extension, plus the North Port connector, finished in the winter of 2022, Eastwood said. “And we’re all looking forward to that.”