Over 700 days.
That’s how long the 1.5-mile Venice Bypass widening project is expected to last.
It’s a slow, difficult project that can make or break some businesses. Right-of-way purchases and design decisions were made long ago. Kickoff for the construction phase began just weeks ago. So expect to begin seeing more and more utilities work, and more workers, along the roadway.
Bob Shapiro, owner of Sarasota Scooters in the Southland Plaza, is located at ground zero of the Bypass project. Phase 1 begins just yards from his store that sells gas and electric powered motor scooters and other mobility products.
It involves widening a large concrete stormwater box culvert, that runs underneath the Bypass next to his business and eventually out into the Intracoastal Waterway.
Already Shapiro has felt the impact of the project. He used to line up his European style motor scooters along the Bypass for commuters to view. Dust from digging up utilities in the median in front of the store has caused him to give up that practice.
“I got sick of cleaning the bikes every day,” he says.
Shapiro said he expects to remain open during the entire two-year project.
“I have no choice,” he said. “We’ll make it work. After the box culvert is done, they probably won’t bother me for a year because they will be doing the southbound lanes first.”
The entrance into his small storefront parking area will be closed soon, forcing customers to travel further north and wind their way back through neighboring parking areas to his store. By the time it’s over, the number of his storefront parking spaces will be cut in half.
Across the street, a few hundred yards north, Phase 2 involves creating a large stormwater pond off Seaboard Avenue, behind the Brickyard, in what was once a thickly wooded vacant lot. That, in turn, will require repaving a short stretch of Seaboard Avenue from the stormwater pond to the Bypass. That intersection will be closed during Phase 2.
At the behest of area businesses, both Phase 1 and Phase 2 will be done simultaneously, and completed before crews even begin work on Phase 3, which involves actual widening of the southbound lanes first.
That will be followed by widening the northbound lanes.
It hasn’t been decided yet if Bergeron Land Development Inc., the contractor, will start at the north or south end of the project once Phase 3 widening begins.
There will be so-called “detours” around construction, which might suggest rerouting traffic into surrounding neighborhoods, but that’s not the case. No “detour” will take traffic off U.S. 41.
There will always be southbound and northbound lanes open throughout the duration of the widening project, according to Anil Shah, project administrator with AECOM.
In addition to widening the roadway, crews are installing new bike lanes, replacing traffic signals, installing new pavement markings and signage, installing concrete curb, sidewalks, improving new drainage, and installing new highway lighting.
There are no additional traffic lights contemplated in the project.
Dangerous crossovers like the one leading to Regency Square or across the way into Detwilers or the Venice Auction Co. will be transformed with medians that separate single left-turning lanes from right-turning lanes.
Only one additional turning lane is designed throughout the entire project at the northbound entrance into Venice Isle Plaza and Sunset Kia.
Local businesses who want to view improvement plans in front of their location or who would like to receive FDOT project updates can call the Project Information Line at 941-216-2010 or email: email@example.com.