After hearing a presentation from engineer Jeff Roberts, the Sarasota County Commission today approved, by a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Low Impact Design option for Bee Ridge Road east of I-75.
That means Bee Ridge Rd. will be four lanes from Mauna Loa Blvd. to Bent Tree, then two lanes from there out to Iona.
About 40 properties on the south side of Bee Ridge (many of them in Lake Sarasota) will be acquired - hopefully at reasonable and realistic market prices - in order to develop a broad corridor with community features such as meandering sidewalks, ponds, bio-swales, and a good deal of buffering between the road and communities that abut it.
It's a wise and timely decision, given that new projects that will increase density, traffic, and noise along Bee Ridge are on the drawing boards.
Besides protection from noise, dust, pollution and sirens, the buffering and attractive landscaping will give the area east of I-75 a "Gateway" quality. Eventually the Bee Ridge Corridor will be extended through Rothenbach Park, and become a major link between the city and future development east of the park. In the long view, it is likely that the investment in quality will support and raise property values, in time repaying the County many times over in higher tax revenues. Current estimates for the whole Low Impact Design (LID) put it at $35.5 million, with construction to begin in 2014.
A 14-acre parcel north of Bee Ridge that was to have been used as a retention area if a simpler, less community-friendly design had been chosen may be sold and the funds used to help pay for the difference between the LID and the basic 4-lane project, which would have cost $31.5 million and involved the destruction of over 300 "significant" trees, not to mention offering virtually no buffer between homes and road. Indeed, the cheapest design would have had driveways coming directly on to Bee Ridge, causing slowdowns, and increasing the chance of accidents.
Much of the work behind getting the county to focus on the LID option was done by the Bee Ridge Neighborhoods Committee, led by Joe O'Hara and Don Schultz.
One aspect of the overall project that still will need some attention is the stretch from Mauna Loa Blvd. west to Cattlemen Rd., which lacks sidewalks. Given that children and others often do need to walk from Lake Sarasota along busy Bee Ridge to reach shopping on Cattlemen, it's a no brainer to make sure safe walkways, if not bikeways, are built into that segment, given that they will adorn every other segment from Mauna Loa to the east. Some of this work might come under FDOT and state planning.