Tourism sign locations on I75

Tourism signs on exits off Interstate 75 were one of many points of debate and disagreement between local officials and state transportation engineers. Punta Gorda wants its signs on the Interstate 75 exit at U.S. 17, but there’s not enough room, said Florida Department of Transportation. That’s why it put a few on the exit at Harborview Road.

Here are some highlights of what local officials said to state transportation engineers this week during an update to the Charlotte County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Why isn’t the state considering widening state road 74 as a regional project connecting the east and west coasts? (Commissioner Christopher Constance)

Constance interrupted the presentation by the Florida Department of Transportation to say he wasn’t interested in their list of regional projects, because it doesn’t include the widening of State Road 74.

Constance believes the state should treat that road as a potential east west route and turn it into a four lanes.

“Whose priorities are these, FDOT? Because I don’t think we’ve ever discussed these,” Constance said of a short list of Interstate 75 intersection improvements.

“We’re here to listen to you,” said FDOT consultant Babuji Ambikapathy. “I’m sure the district will listen.”

Can FDOT pick a different alignment for the Harborview Road widening so that waterfront property is less affected? (Resident Mark Bowsher)

FDOT has selected a route which removes the least number of homes on the 2.3-mile project. That has left the lowest value homes north of the road, Bowsher said, while destroying the high value waterfront property to the south. This is a $46 million project for which both the state and county government would pay. The two lane road is considered a dangerous and major thoroughfare from I-75 to U.S. 41.

Commissioner Joe Tiseo told Bowhser his board hasn’t weighed in yet on which alignment it would like to see.

Why can’t Punta Gorda have all of its major tourist attractions on the exit signs off I-75 at U.S. 17? (Vice Mayor Lynn Matthews)

Matthews and FDOT District 1 Administrator L.K. Nandam argued over whether the state can give Punta Gorda and the county all the tourist attraction signs it wants at I-75 intersections. The city wants to put the Vietnam Wall, the Military History Museum and the Peace River Wildlife Center on the U.S. 17 exit, but the state says one of those won’t make it. That’s because there are already four attractions on the sign, and that’s the safety limit.

“This has been a thorn in our side for a long time,” said Matthews.

“You guys tell us which destination to remove,” said Nandam. “My hands are pretty much tied.”

Constance asked FDOT to report back on what’s listed on the other Charlotte County intersections south of U.S. 17, in case there is more room there.

Don’t expect a new bridge over the Myakka River (Michael Tisch of FDOT)

The state will not be replacing the State Road 776 bridge over the Myakka River any time soon, because it is still in good shape.

Constance thanked FDOT for researching the question, saying the bridge looked bad to the untrained eye.

Should the state be spending money these days on a massive central toll road plan? (Commissioner Joe Tiseo)

Tiseo said he has heard the state has committed to spending millions of dollars just to decide whether it’s feasible to build a toll road, which might go through Charlotte and DeSoto counties.

Nandam said the state can still decide it’s not feasible, and it doesn’t have to spend the full $7 million before deciding on feasibility.

Punta Gorda will pay to fix truck traffic problem on Madrid Boulevard. (Matthews)

The city had asked FDOT to keep trucks from driving through Burnt Store Aisles to get to U.S. 41 at Madrid. But the city has decided to spend its own sales tax dollars to put a traffic light on Burnt Store Road at the Home Depot store, Matthews said. That’s where the trucks start before using Madrid as a shortcut.

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