Overhaul of University and I-75 on pace to start this summer
By Jeremy Wallace via Sarasota Herald Tribune
Preliminary work to fix one of the Southwest Florida’s most dysfunctional highway interchanges is on pace to start this summer, decades ahead of schedule.
Florida Department of Transportation officials said the Legislature’s proposed budget — set for adoption next week — will give them more than enough money to start the initial design and engineering work this summer on improving the Interstate 75-University Parkway interchange, a project that has quickly become one of the region’s most pressing transportation needs.
And there is still the potential that the FDOT will have enough money in its budget to begin construction on the $58 million project within the next year.
“That’s our goal,” FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said Wednesday.
While it might be an ambitious goal, Prasad said it is not an “insurmountable” challenge.
So far the proposed 2014-15 state budget includes only enough guaranteed money for the $244,000 preliminary design work and engineering work.
While that amount seems small compared with the overall expense, it represents a major political shift. As recently as December, no construction was foreseen by state or local officials at the busy gateway to Lakewood Ranch until after the year 2036. State lawmakers were mostly indifferent toward the project and county commissioners in both Sarasota and Manatee actively opposed the work.
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