BRADENTON – The start date for the controversial "diverging diamond interchange" at Interstate 75 and University Parkway has been pushed back from early next year to August of 2015. Meanwhile, projected construction costs have risen by more than $12 million according to updates given to the Sarasota/Manatee MPO at Monday's meeting.
The project has already been criticized for coming far too late after extensive development in the nearby area was continuously approved in recent years. In addition to a former outlet center on the north side of University Parkway that was redeveloped with significant additions, including hotels, additional restaurants and a large health club, a massive strip mall anchored by a Super Target was added across the street.
|A rendering of the planned diverging diamond interchange
In October, an enormous commercial retail project dubbed the Mall at University Town Center will open just east of the big box plaza, meaning the colossal construction project would be breaking ground just as traffic volumes spike significantly. Then there's also the frequent weekend rowing events at Nathan Benderson Park (located behind the mall) that already compound weekend traffic volumes in the area.
|A rendering of the Mall at University Town Center currently being built near the site of the exchange
With dense development east of the interstate in Lakewood Ranch and thousands of additional homes planned or under construction, the traffic surrounding the project could prove disastrous to commuters or those seeking to shop at the many local stores already in the immediate vicinity of the exit (213 off of I-75).
At Monday's meeting, officials voiced concerns that the project be completed before the 2017 World Rowing Championships, which are scheduled to be hosted at the rowing facility and include the commitment of much public money, including a $2.8 million committment from Manatee County.
Originally conceived at $60 million, the projected price tag for the interchange is now up to $72 million as costs for a noise-reducing wall, additional earthwork and other items added by FDOT are tacked on, and officials say that there could still be plenty of FDOT mandated revisions to project designs which are about halfway complete.
|Nathan Benderson Park
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