Road backups highlighting needs

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SARASOTA, FL - Another big question emerging from the recent back up at University Parkway and I-75. Why there are not more roads east of the interstate between Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota? There are also other projects which could give an alternative route for those driving to and from North Port.

Most are not enjoying the extra moments in the car these days. "People are waiting around an hour or two hours in their car. This is Sarasota not New York City," says Daryl Brown. Sarasota resident Amy Rose agrees "I think it is unnecessary to have this much traffic when there could be other alternate routes."

With the overpass closed you couldn't go south Monday from Lakewood Ranch. Tuesday you could find plenty hoping to avoid the traffic abyss and break though but only finding dead ends. Those with the Sarasota Bradenton Metropolitan Planning Organization like planner David Hutchinson say something is in the works. "Both the extension of Lakewood Ranch boulevard to the south and Lorraine boulevard to the south are in the MPO's long range plan." Hutchinson says right now developers own the land and are in talks. "Perhaps facilitate and expedite the furthering of those projects."

It's not the only area with issues. Just last month traffic had to be rerouted off I-75 between Venice and North Port because of damage to an overpass. Monday the MPO talked about extending Toledo Blade boulevard in North Port to State Road 72 says executive director Michael Howe. "The question out there is to weather or not this would be appropriate to extend as a travel network."

The problem with most of these projects is most who live near where they would go don't always want them in their backyards. In the Toledo Blade case it would punch right through set aside lands in the Carlton Reserve. "We would have to do a project development and environment study and consider all of that."

Of course paying for it all is also a factor. For example the intersection at River road and U.S. 41 in Venice has just been completed. It's believed it will cost around $50 million more to widen the road leading up to it. With more growth expected all around the Suncoast we could be seeing more of this unless something changes. "There needs to be more options in case something like this happens again," says Rose.

MPO officials say talks are still ongoing as far as when and where a road would break through from Lakewood Ranch to Fruitville.