SARASOTA - An inquiry into whether installing streetlights along University Parkway would be feasible seemingly came to an end with an answer of “no” at Monday’s Sarasota-Manatee MPO meeting.
Bradenton resident Ronnie Snyder, who has repeatedly addressed the subject to MPO board members, including last month’s meeting when the board took action and voted to look into the idea further, was present again to bring attention the issue.
Calling the two counties’ plan to build a diverging diamond - a massive traffic interchange by I-75 on University - a “diversion diamond,” Snyder noted that State Road 64, which was just completed, has been provided with streetlights, yet “right now, University is dark.”
Snyder proceeded to say that the area around Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, which resides on the road, was “way behind” in terms of surrounding lighting when compared to other nearby international airports, such as the one in Tampa.
Snyder’s argument for adding streetlights to the rapidly crowding six-lane highway has always been multi-pronged: safety for residents and tourists (especially in the troubled area near SRQ Airport); an added feeling of security for people in the area; as well as economic tourism.
But those arguments could not succeed when faced with what it would cost to add the streetlights and a failure to meet certain criteria, said a representative for the Florida Department of Transportation at the meeting.
Roxann Lake, community liaison for FDOT, said that after doing a cost/benefit analysis adding streetlights to the highway, the department determined that such a project would not be eligible for FDOT funding.
“As a rule, safety funds are applied to projects when we can provide a benefit-to-cost ratio,” she advised before saying that though FDOT has financed streetlight additions to other corridors, University Parkway does not meet the criteria for such funds.
Lake said one part of the criteria is “significant night time crashes.” A request for more information about FDOT’s analysis, including the determined estimated cost of doing the project, was not returned as of press time.
MPO Executive Director Michael Howe argued that adding streetlights to University is “not just a safety issue … it’s a quality of life and aesthetic issue as well.” Howe added that studies show that doing so would help the area’s economy as people would likely feel more comfortable traveling through the area.
But Lake reiterated that due to the amount of lights that would be required, the project would be too massive for FDOT to fund.
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