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Date of Issue: December 26, 2007

Transportation funds to flood Island area

Anna Maria Island may reap a cornucopia of transportation goodies in the next five years, to the tune of almost $32 million.

At least on paper.

The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, the regional transportation planning group that offers advise to the Florida Department of Transportation, unanimously approved a five-year plan for road, bridge and aviation improvements last week.

Resurfacing of roadways on, off and near the Island topped the list of the top-ticket projects, as well as traffic signals, turn lanes and landscaping.

But with budget cuts looming at the state level, the funding for the projects in the “out” years is always in question, said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore.

“We’re getting really good at getting the process to get us what we need,” she said, but added that state budget cuts may gut the highway projects in the outlying years.

The local needs, as outlined in the 2008-09 to 2011-12 transportation improvement program plan include:

  • Resurfacing of Gulf Drive, from the Longboat Pass Bridge in Bradenton Beach to Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach, at a cost of $7,204,000, due to be completed during the 2009-10 fiscal year.
  • Although off-Island, there is also a scheduled resurfacing project, to the tune of $5.2 million, west on Manatee Avenue from Palma Sola to 43rd Street, Bradenton, in 2008-09.
  • And for Longboat Key, there is a proposed resurface effort for the length of the key which, including turn lanes and bike path resurfacing on Gulf of Mexico Drive, totals $5.411 million.

To get more local, the MPO’s five-year plan includes landscaping improvements in Holmes Beach for fiscal years including 2009-11 to total $384,000, plus reimbursement for traffic signals from 2009-13 at about $91,000.

DOT District 1 Secretary Stanley Cann told the MPO that he was “very much relieved” of the projects that could be funded.

He said that $1.2 billion was cut from the state transportation budget statewide, but that the Manatee-Sarasota county area “was not touched.”

In other MPO business, Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes was unanimously elected chair for 2008. Vice chair will be Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson.

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