SARASOTA — While Sarasota County commissioners largely ignored the news about the road transfer agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation, River Road did factor into their brief meeting Wednesday morning.
As part of their consent agenda, commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with the city of North Port that city commissioners had approved last month.
Under that agreement the city has agreed to commit $6 million for improvements to that portion of River Road from U.S. 41 to West Villages Parkway, the same section of road the county had originally agreed to improve in its initial agreements with the state last year as part of a road swap agreement.
As previously reported, the state and the county are working on a formal road transfer agreement that will make River Road from U.S. 41 to Interstate 75 a state road, and a joint project agreement for completion of the final plans before construction of improvements to the road begin in 2021.
The agreement with the city specifically acknowledges that the county may furnish the $6 million to the state as it is likely the state will undertake the entire improvement project rather than doing only the part from West Villages Parkway to the interstate as originally agreed.
The city’s $6 million contribution to the project will come from impact fees collected from the West Villages Improvement District.
No commissioner pulled the agreement with the city from the consent agenda for comment, but later in the meeting, during her report, Commissioner Nancy Detert did make a general comment about River Road.
Detert said she had attended a couple of meetings in South County, one in North Port and the other in Englewood, and River Road was the subject of many questions with people wanting to know what was going on.
“River Road is the hot topic in South County,” Detert said. “And they’re thrilled that something is moving forward.”
While the attention remains focused on the north section of River Road, the county has no current plans to make improvements to the southern portion from U.S. 41 to Winchester Boulevard. The state declined to take over that portion of the road during negotiations with the county last year.
County officials have expressed hope that the state can be convinced to assume responsibility for this portion of the road too in the future.