Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

River Road Options Weighed

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

River Road Options Weighed

Article excerpt

TOLLS FOR IMPROVEMENTS? County leaders want state to look at a range of ideas5

SARASOTA COUNTY

Maybe it could be a toll road. Maybe it could be a state highway. Maybe it could be both.

Whatever the future for River Road, one of the most dangerous thoroughfares in the region, the Sarasota County Commission and Charlotte County Commission agree that it must be made wider and safer -- and soon.

So, the two commissions are vowing to work together to convince federal and state transportation authorities to make the project a priority -- even suggesting the possibility of tolls, if that could help defray the cost.

That unlighted, narrow River Road, which lacks shoulders and streetlights, is hazardous is not in dispute. Year after year, the crash data piles up.

The bottom line is money.

Improving the roughly 12 miles of road stretching from Englewood to Interstate 75 could cost $60 million to $100 million for design, engineering, right-of-way and construction.

The road is entirely in Sarasota County's jurisdiction. Sarasota County could cover some of the cost and is currently adding turning lanes to the River Road and U.S. 41 intersection. But upgrading the entire thoroughfare "is not something the county can do on its own," Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson said.

Charlotte County, which also depends on River Road as an evacuation route out of Englewood, is just as motivated as Sarasota County in getting conditions on the road improved.

For years, the two counties have separately lobbied to get funding for the project.

Now, the two county commissions intend to speak in solidarity. All 10 commissioners will soon sign a letter appealing to federal and state transportation authorities to make River Road improvements a high priority.

"We're going to put more pressure on them," Robinson said.

At a meeting last week, commissioners from both counties considered two possibilities that may give the project a jump start. So far, they have not formally endorsed either but are keeping the ideas in mind. …

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