NORTH PORT — There was no ribbon-cutting ceremony. No change in signs. Nothing that indicated a change of ownership.
Instead, there was just the quiet stroke of pens on paper.
But by mid-year of 2021, that change may be aggravatingly apparent to South County residents and drivers on North River Road.
In June 2020, a road transfer agreement between Sarasota County and the state went into effect, meaning that North River Road from U.S. 41 to Interstate 75 became a state road. In return, two state roads on Siesta Key became the responsibility of Sarasota County.
To residents and drivers, that change was not apparent as the county continued to maintain North River Road under the terms of the agreement.
But this summer, the county will cease maintenance as the state begins a major construction project to improve the road, according to Ken Stokes, Public Works infrastructure coordination program manager for the Florida Department of Transportation.
While details of the project are not yet available, FDOT’s five-year transportation plan indicates that the $73 million, three-mile, project will begin and end during 2021 with the goal of widening the road to six lanes and bringing it up to modern standards.
Sarasota County has contributed $24.8 million to the project to pay for its share of the improvements from U.S. 41 to just north of West Villages Parkway. Initial discussions between the county and the state had the county doing that portion of the project, but the state later reversed course, agreeing to undertake the entire project with the county contributing the $24.8 million.
Still remaining unresolved is how the county will address improvements to River Road from U.S. 41 to Winchester Boulevard. The county owns most of the right of way, but no design work has been performed. Construction costs for the roughly 7-mile road from U.S. 41 to Winchester Boulevard then down to the Charlotte County line are estimated in current dollars at $65 million.
Funding for this part of the road remains unavailable.