VENICE — With plans in place for the state to begin improvements to River Road in 2021, Sarasota County commissioners began to take steps Tuesday to comply with their requirements under a road transfer agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation.

Without discussion, commissioners unanimously agreed to appropriate $24.8 million toward the River Road widening project as required by another agreement with FDOT.

Those funds will pay for the county’s share of the widening and overall improvements to River Road from U.S. 41 to just north of West Villages Parkway.

The state will be responsible for all costs over $24.8 million and will shoulder all costs for the improvement project from West Villages Parkway to Interstate 75.

The county’s $24.8 million contribution will come from South County Mobility fees, South Roads Construction Funds, the North Port Road Impact Capital Fund, and a pending loan from the State Infrastructure Bank.

Tuesday’s action came despite objections from a group of Siesta Key residents who, at a meeting on the Key with FDOT officials in December, raised objections to the road transfer agreement. In return for the state taking over North River Road, that agreement transfers responsibility for two state roads on Siesta Key absent the bridges, to the county.

Tuesday, County Public Works Director Spencer Anderson confirmed that the road transfer agreement, which commissioners approved last October, remains operational, although it is unknown what action, if any, FDOT will take regarding the concerns raised at the Siesta Key meeting.

Most of those comments concerned congestion on Stickney Point Road, one of the state routes the county will take over, and the related Siesta Promenades project by Benderson Development at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41.

Eminent domain

In a related action, as part of their consent agenda, commissioners also approved eight resolutions of necessity that will allow staff to initiate eminent domain proceedings on eight properties essential to the River Road widening project.

In a memo to commissioners, Anderson wrote that negotiations with the landowners are ongoing, but the county does face an April deadline to acquire the properties pursuant to the road transfer agreement. Once the county has ownership, it must send maps to FDOT showing the full right of way for the widening project.

With funding already committed in its five-year work plan, the state plans to begin improvements to the road in 2021 that will see it widened to six lanes and brought up to modern standards.

Remaining unresolved is how the county will address improvements to River Road from U.S. 41 to Winchester Boulevard toward Englewood. The county owns most of the right of way, but no design work has been performed.


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