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Public Gets East County I-75 Diverging Diamond Intersection Preview


LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Thursday afternoon, industry reps, residents and county commissioners came to see FDOT's "diverging diamond interchange" showcased at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood Ranch. But the controversial fix-all design to curb the overwhelming traffic jams that paralyze I-75 and University Parkway every afternoon and are only expected to get much worse with the upcoming opening of a major mall, is still looking for funding.


The artist's rendition satellite overlays of how the intersection is to look (pictured) if both Sarasota and Manatee County Commissioners get their way, were displayed in two different meeting rooms Thursday. FDOT also set up a small theatre area (20 seats) for viewing a 10-minute loop-video telling the same story (see bottom of page). 

However, wall-sized maps of how to fix this colossal problem didn't convince everyone. So FDOT representatives, county commissioners and other stakeholders were there to answer questions of concern from the hundred or so curious residents who showed up. 

There is still a great deal of confusion that surrounds what so many officials have described as a simple solution to the congestion at the I-75/University Parkway FDOT project in Lakewood Ranch; and it all has to do with funding. 

There have been so many figures bouncing around about what and who pays for each part that it can be dizzying to keep up. The proposed $60 million cost has already grown to $68 million on paper, and it is not clear if either of those amounts include the 3.5 mile arterial lane on I-75, between Fruitville Road north to University Parkway; or the replacement of the I-75 bridges over University Parkway; and the widening of the two I-75 bridges over Erie Creek.


The confusion comes from the top. I asked FDOT District One Secretary Billy Hattaway how that large of a project could be estimated to only cost $60 million, and if that cost was for the interchange and the I-75 work as well. Hattaway said, "They are two separate projects."

Hattaway introduced me to Kevin Ingle, the FDOT manager for the project. But Ingle told me that "the diverging diamond and the I-75 work are one project."

In the diverging diamond interchange, there will be a widening of University Parkway as well, for the distance of one mile, but the FDOT project stops there. That one mile of University Parkway is between Cooper Creek/Cattlemen Rd. intersection and Market Street/ Lake Osprey Drive intersection.

Robin Stublen, FDOT Communication Specialist for District 1 said, "What the county needs to concern itself with are the cost of these two intersections." Stublen also confirmed that both were one project.

Not only do critics feel that the estimated $68 million won't nearly be enough to suffice in completing the project, but many also worry that there will be tens of millions in costs to county residents for the projects that surround the FDOT project (Cooper and Market intersections, the lighting of University Parkway to the airport, etc.).

State Representative Greg Steube visited the BOCC last week, claiming that if the funds aren't appropriated this year for the Lakewood Ranch project, he will make it his number one priority at the next legislative session.

Here is a video of the I-75/ University Parkway project, and it will soon be available at, I75manatee.com. A comment sheet was handed out at Thursday's event for citizens to give feedback.


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