Last Modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 10:02 p.m.
SARASOTA - Road improvement work along Bee Ridge Road from South Osprey Avenue to Dunn Drive is slated to start Monday, the Florida Department of Transportation said.
For more information about the project contact the FDOT at 863-519-2828; or visit swflroads.com.
The construction work will fix drainage areas along Bee Ridge where stormwater caused dips in the road, near intersections and business driveways. The project will also add 11 pedestrian refuge islands to allow safe space and increased visibility for people attempting to cross Bee Ridge.
The work requires the closure of one lane in both directions of the seven-lane thoroughfare from Osprey to Bond Place, while other temporary lane closures are expected to complete drainage work at side streets at night, according to FDOT.
Motorists and pedestrians are asked to use caution during the $17 million project, which is expected to last until the summer of 2017.
While the delay will hamper traffic during the peak business season, FDOT spokesman Robin Stublen said construction will address two major failures along Bee Ridge, which was originally built by Sarasota County.
“They did the construction, the drainage work and what have you. A good many years ago, Sarasota asked us to take over Bee Ridge Road and we made it into State Road 758” connecting Interstate 75 to U.S. 41, Stublen said. “Along the way we found in the past few years there were some failures in some of the drainage areas …”
Stublen said the drainage issues are limited to stormwater pipes and culverts along the side of the road that have caused the road to buckle in spots. The project also addresses safety issues along the road where at least three people were killed in pedestrian vs. vehicle collisions from 2007 to 2012, according to FDOT project manager Justin Reck.
According to FDOT, Sarasota County is among the top 10 in the state for pedestrian deaths and injuries.
“The placing of the pedestrian refuge islands was based on the fatalities of pedestrians, the crashes involving pedestrians, the volume of pedestrians crossing specific locations, and then the transit stops coordinating with the Sarasota County Area Transit,” Reck said. “Then we also took into consideration the businesses and the impacts of their access to Bee Ridge. We held a public hearing and we opened it up to citizens; they came and made their comments; businesses came and made their comments. We took that and incorporated it into the design and accommodated as best as we could.”
The pedestrian refuge islands are legal, unmarked crossing areas that will supplement existing crosswalks and legal crossings at side streets. The islands will have warning signs for motorists but will not be marked for pedestrian traffic.
Mitch Goldberg, co-owner of Goldmark Auto Group, said he only received one week's notice of the project and wasn't able to prepare for the effects to his business.
“We believe the state should have had an obligation to give us longer notice than one week to tell us that they are going to interrupt our business for prime season almost two years,” Goldberg said. “The issue is if they would have told us about disturbing our business maybe I would have made other arrangements for my season, which I did not.
“I have so much merchandise geared for Christmastime. What do retailers do? They buy merchandise for their season. What we did is we bought plenty of merchandise for our season knowing the business that we do — now what?”
Stublen said FDOT has gone “above and beyond” to notify businesses and residents through phone calls and informational flyers.
“We want everyone to know what to expect and we are doing everything we can to lessen that inconvenience,” he said. “We are going to what I consider very good methods to make sure people can get to businesses. Even though an entrance — if it's only one entrance and it may be closed — we are going to make an alternative entrance. We have signs that are going to be for all the businesses along the way.
“At the end it will be milled, resurfaced, everything will be nice and smooth.”
The state held an informational meeting on the plans at Trinity United Methodist Church Tuesday evening. For more information about the project contact the FDOT at 863-519-2828; or visit swflroads.com.