NORTH PORT, Fla. - Sumter Boulevard is the 2nd-most used thoroughfare in North Port, after U.S. 41. Now after more than a decade, work has finally begun to finish it.
The last phase of widening runs from Price Boulevard South to around Libby Road. City leaders officially broke ground this past weekend, and crews are already hard at work.
Throughout the years we've heard from residents who just want it done. "It's a good road. It needs to be finished. They've been taking their sweet time," says resident Kurt Lohnes.
City leaders like Mayor Jim Blucher say it hasn't been easy. “It's been frustrating. It's always about money."
But finally they have turned the dirt on the fifth and final phase of widening Sumter Boulevard from two to four lanes; the last piece of a plan years in the making. "That first section coming off I-75 to Miranda was done in the mid 90's. That vision those past commissioners had in the early 90's has carried through."
The last phase is less than a mile and a half long and will cost close to $10 million. It will include decorative landscaping and walkways. Blucher says it's important for the look of the city. "It makes a great first impression for those coming in who either want to live here, work here, or start a business here."
Its completion is even symbolic for the city, which now has the largest in population in Sarasota County. "It's like we have finally come of age. It's finally there. It is just the tip of the iceberg. In the last 10 years we have spent more than a billion dollars on infrastructure," says Blucher.
Much of that infrastructure is just off the road itself: city hall, post office, police and fire headquarters. Now the area is set to finally look and feel complete.
“I think it is the finest gateway in Florida. I have traveled around the state quite a bit. It's going to be absolutely gorgeous."
Crews will be out there working on the project for the next year. Completion date is set for December 20th, 2014.