BRADENTON -- Manatee County Commissioners are on a mission to build an ambitious interstate exchange at exit 213 off I-75 near Lakewood Ranch. Their unanimous vote to adopt Resolution R-14-038 at Tuesday's BOCC meeting put them closer to it. But for Manatee County residents, it may be a Pyrrhic victory if commissioners succeed. Their only obstacle seems to be common sense, and the BOCC has been known not to let that get in their way.
The board is asking for a quick $60 million in state highway funds, in order to build a "diverging double diamond" interchange under the interstate, which sits on the border of Manatee and Sarasota Counties (both of whom will share in the project's cost).
BOCC members say that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) found $60 million, and they want it. They have what you might call a self-made emergency, and FDOT isn't moving fast enough to satisfy their yearn.
FDOT District Secretary, Billy Hattaway says, "The processing of FDOT projects takes whatever time it takes." He opposes the insinuation that they are "dragging their feet."
Commissioners say they are not suggesting that at all; insomuch that no one should be surprised if commissioners actually invite Hattaway along next time they take off to Tallahassee to meet personally with FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad, Hattaway's boss, about something they had already delivered to Hattaway months ago to give to him.
Hattaway says a lot happens around projects of this magnitude, such as concerns about how connector roads will be affected, what kind of future the road will have to live up to, and whether funding is there for those ajacen projects, information that seems to be of little concern to the BOCC.
R-14-038 relies on future projects that have not even been exposed to the public. There is a lot not known about who, what when and where the money is coming from. What does seem clear, is that whether the funds are federal, state or local, the board doesn't seem to mind gambling with it.
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