Lakewood Ranch continues to grow, but will the roads be able to withstand the traffic?

Updated: Apr. 9, 2019 at 8:38 PM EDT
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SARASOTA (WWSB) - East Manatee County is making headlines for its growth once again. Lakewood Ranch Communities is reporting home sales that have hit record levels in the first quarter of 2019 and the new developments only continue to pop up.

It begs the question, are there enough people here to fill all of these new homes and does the Suncoast have the infrastructure to support them?

In 2018, Lakewood Ranch was named the second best selling master planned community in all of the nation. Now, the community is reporting 417 home sales in the first quarter of 2019 alone. This is an increase of 7% from the same period last year - a new record.

“It’s just exploding out here, I mean the new construction is just unbelievable," said Marci Walker, co-owner of Blue Skye Lending in Lakewood Ranch.

She said in her experience, there’s been a huge increase in people shifting from resale to buying new construction.

“We do a lot of first time home buyer business and I think the rents have gotten really high in this area, so I think people are realizing they can buy a home for a lot less than they can rent for," said Walker. "Not necessarily just for Lakewood Ranch, but for our area in general.”

But even with all of these new housing developments, Walker is hopeful there will be enough people to move into them. Her concern is having the schools and infrastructure to support the influx.

“Traffic is getting awful around here and the school systems, they just opened a new middle school and a new high school, but they’re already at capacity," she said.

It’s growth the Metropolitan Planning Organization said it expected.

“We rely on new growth, it’s part of our economic development strategy and we’re planning on it," explained David Hutchinson, executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

“So we know that the secret is to have a robust transportation network, or a grid. So we will see in the future, new roads out to the east to serve the new developments that are already approved or in the process of being approved to go in."

Though the developers are required to build the roads as they build new homes, the MPO projects another 300,000 people will move to our area in the next 25 years.

Hutchinson said there is a concern that the current infrastructure isn’t enough to withstand the new growth.

“One of the things that we have determined from past studies, which we’re about to update, is that we will have a shortfall of infrastructure,” said Hutchinson. “So we won’t always be able to afford to build everything we think would be nice to have.

This means people on the Suncoast might need to start rethinking the ways they get around.

“Getting some transit in so that you don’t have to take your car. Micro mobility within pockets of activity is something that’s coming to lots of areas and i expect that we’ll start to see scooters in some of our areas before too long.”

The MPO is hosting a meeting that will look into the challenges and issues associated with the future of infrastructure on the Suncoast.

It’s open to the public and will be held on April 22 from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the USF Sarasota-Manatee Selby Auditorium. The address is 8350 M Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida, 34243.

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