News Section: Local Government
Manatee BOCC Seeks to Change MPO/FDOT Project Priorities
BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's BOCC meeting, Manatee County Commissioners voted unanimously to provide a recommendation to the Sarasota-Manatee Planning Organization Board an approval of the $176 million Florida Department of Transportation DRAFT Tentative Work Program -- with a couple of exceptions. The Tentative Work Program is a 5-year listing of all transportation projects for each fiscal year developed by the Florida Department Of Transportation (FDOT). The Sarasota Manatee MPO is scheduled to vote on it at their last meeting of 2012, Monday, and the board intends to seek some key changes in the status of major projects.
The Manatee BOCC has three voting members on the 15-member MPO board. The BOCC voted Monday to present their suggestions to the MPO Board, requesting that they prioritize improvements along the U.S. Highway 41 and U.S. 301 corridor, north of the Manatee River and east along U.S. 301, while asking FDOT that $5 million designated for a study of a new DeSoto Bridge instead be re-directed to a feasibility study for highway improvements on the Palmetto side of the bridge.
Considered a high priority project, the U.S. 41 Corridor includes a possible replacement of the Desoto Bridge that connects Bradenton with the City of Palmetto. The commission suggested moving forward, not with a PD&E Study, but with a Feasibility Study (FS) instead, lowering that project's priority. A PD&E requires funds be in place for the project, whereas an FS does not. This might suggest the $5.6 million allocated in the FDOT draft for the corridor could be maneuvered if a no-bridge option is introduced.
The Desoto Bridge, built in the 60s, is not only deteriorating, but many feel it is a safety hazard if left as is. Former commissioner Joe McClash argued many of the current perils and emphasized the importance of correcting them. McClash, who served with fellow-ex commissioner Donna Hayes and newly-appointed Chair Larry Bustle, on the MPO Board before losing reelection to Betsy Benac, was an outspoken proponent of the PD&E Study and successfully lobbied for a 41/301 corridor charrette, which took place in May, involving local elected officials, engineers, merchants and residents, who weighed in on future possibilities for the corridor. The recommendation from the charrette was for a PD&E that would allow federal dollars to build what is needed for an already congested corridor.
McClash requested that the Cities of Palmetto and Bradenton hold a joint meeting to discuss what he believed to be the most important transportation project facing the county, one that impacts almost everyone in our community, saying that a feasibility study "delays the improvements needed and wastes our federal taxes."
The MPO meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m., Monday December 17, at the in the Longboat Key Room of the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto. A PDF (20K) of the major improvement project priorities and their costs for the Sarasota/Manatee MPO can be found (here).