VENICE, Fla. -- Construction on a huge road widening project in Venice is now funded and is getting closer to a start date. It's already forcing some businesses along the stretch to relocate.
The state plans to widen U.S. 41 Bypass between Bird Bay Drive and Center Road from 4 lanes to 6 lanes. That’s causing parts of one the busiest roads in Sarasota County to suddenly becoming a ghost town.
Empty store fronts along that stretch now offer directions to new locations, and some buildings have already met the wrecking ball.
"They are getting ready to take our old building out now. Businesses are just moving. They are going out of business or relocating to another store front." Dallas Council owns the local Aamco transmission repair shop. His business on the west side of the road was one of many forced to relocate to make room for more lanes. "We didn't have a choice of the matter."
Funding for the now $80 million project along the 3-mile stretch has been secured. Within 12 months, those with the local metropolitan planning organization say work should begin. "Venice has been waiting on this project for basically 25 years," says director Michael Howe.
He says the work is needed not only for future growth, but for right now; the area sees over 55,000 vehicles a day. "We did our recent analysis. We were running in the 70,000 range for annual traffic daily."
Businesses staying there are concerned, too. It will be years of construction which could keep some away.
Council is moving his business right across the street. “We are going from the frying pan into the fire. There were not a lot of options for us in Venice. We have to have a location that meets a minimum traffic count."
The state project is supported by the Venice city council and the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce.
Officials are hoping for the best for what is already a few steps back before going forward. "The big fear here in Venice is your have an alternative. You can go onto the island and circumvent the construction. We are trying to maintain a glass half full type of company. We will be alright."
Completion dates are not yet set, but it's likely some of the project could still be going on into 2018.