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News Section: Local Government

Public Gets East County I-75 Diverging Diamond Intersection Preview

Published Saturday, June 28, 2014 12:05 am

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Thursday afternoon, industry reps, residents and county commissioners came to see FDOT's "diverging diamond interchange" showcased at the Holiday Inn in Lakewood Ranch. But the controversial fix-all design to curb the overwhelming traffic jams that paralyze I-75 and University Parkway every afternoon and are only expected to get much worse with the upcoming opening of a major mall, is still looking for funding.


The artist's rendition satellite overlays of how the intersection is to look (pictured) if both Sarasota and Manatee County Commissioners get their way, were displayed in two different meeting rooms Thursday. FDOT also set up a small theatre area (20 seats) for viewing a 10-minute loop-video telling the same story (see bottom of page). 


However, wall-sized maps of how to fix this colossal problem didn't convince everyone. So FDOT representatives, county commissioners and other stakeholders were there to answer questions of concern from the hundred or so curious residents who showed up. 


There is still a great deal of confusion that surrounds what so many officials have described as a simple solution to the congestion at the I-75/University Parkway FDOT project in Lakewood Ranch; and it all has to do with funding. 


There have been so many figures bouncing around about what and who pays for each part that it can be dizzying to keep up. The proposed $60 million cost has already grown to $68 million on paper, and it is not clear if either of those amounts include the 3.5 mile arterial lane on I-75, between Fruitville Road north to University Parkway; or the replacement of the I-75 bridges over University Parkway; and the widening of the two I-75 bridges over Erie Creek.


The confusion comes from the top. I asked FDOT District One Secretary Billy Hattaway how that large of a project could be estimated to only cost $60 million, and if that cost was for the interchange and the I-75 work as well. Hattaway said, "They are two separate projects."


Hattaway introduced me to Kevin Ingle, the FDOT manager for the project. But Ingle told me that "the diverging diamond and the I-75 work are one project."


In the diverging diamond interchange, there will be a widening of University Parkway as well, for the distance of one mile, but the FDOT project stops there. That one mile of University Parkway is between Cooper Creek/Cattlemen Rd. intersection and Market Street/ Lake Osprey Drive intersection.


Robin Stublen, FDOT Communication Specialist for District 1 said, "What the county needs to concern itself with are the cost of these two intersections." Stublen also confirmed that both were one project.


Not only do critics feel that the estimated $68 million won't nearly be enough to suffice in completing the project, but many also worry that there will be tens of millions in costs to county residents for the projects that surround the FDOT project (Cooper and Market intersections, the lighting of University Parkway to the airport, etc.).


State Representative Greg Steube visited the BOCC last week, claiming that if the funds aren't appropriated this year for the Lakewood Ranch project, he will make it his number one priority at the next legislative session.


Here is a video of the I-75/ University Parkway project, and it will soon be available at, A comment sheet was handed out at Thursday's event for citizens to give feedback.


Join the conversation post Facebook comments here or on our site at the bottom of article.


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Non-Facebook Comments:

Nothing new here. No "mis-Management" here by not solving infrastructure problems before constructing a mega-mall. The "lack of planning" IS the PLAN. The traffic crisis is, of course, could be passed off the taxpayers ....otherwise they will suffer in clogged traffic. While I sympathize with the surrounding residents I have a solution (for me), I don't have to go to that mall. Simple.
Posted by suzanna young on July 13, 2014

This "project" should have been funded by the developer(s) and been a prerequisite and been completed as a requirement to be able to build a mall of this magnitude. Instead they are still "looking for funding" less than 4 months from the mall's expected completion date. Instead, everyone is impacted by traffic nightmares due to a complete lack of planning.
Posted by Bill Chamberlain on June 29, 2014

I would not believe anything Tea Patry Activist Robin Stublen has to say. When questioned by an ABC News Reporter about the street lamp posts in the middle of the sidewalk on Bee Ridge he said:

"In addition to being exempted from the current ADA standards, Stublen says there are other barriers preventing the street lamps from being moved. "Right now we are right up against the edge of the right of way. We have no more room. Literally millions would be required to purchase any additional right away we would need if we were to relocated the street lamp," said Stublen.

Look at the photo. Does it sound like Mr Stublen is telling the truth.

Please help us in the efforts to relocate the street lamp posts which obstruct the center of the Bee Ridge Road Sidewalk by visiting and signing our Petition.

Thank you.

Jeff Redding
Lifetime Member, Blinded Veterans of America
Posted by Jeff Redding on June 28, 2014

I attended Thursday's FDOT presentation. It was a help yourself event. Instead of FDOT making a presentation, citizens were encouraged to show themselves around, ask a question if they could find someone to answer it and sit in front of a simulated video.

It was a waste of time as I wanted to know how this project got on a fast track, as it was no where to be seen on the MPO's list of projects; what is the real cost of the project; and is Benderson paying for this as it enables his mall and rowing facility or will citizens once again pay for developer projects.
Posted by Barbara Angelucci on June 28, 2014

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