Locals say University Parkway traffic jams were preventable

8:29 PM, Jan 28, 2014   |    comments
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Video: Locals say Unviersity Pkwy traffic jams were preventable

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Lakewood Ranch, Florida -- Traffic along University Parkway and at the exit along I-75 remains "like a parking lot" as road crews continue repairing the overpass after a truck's load broke free during a car accident.   

"I hope I get gas before I run out of it,' says one motorist stuck in bumper to bumper traffic along University Parkway.

Motorists had a few options heading south if heading west on University, but those stuck on the east side of the interstate were down to one: Verna Road- about a 40-mile detour back to town.

Another road option that appears much closer was Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. The road shows as if it cuts through on a map, but motorists who tried the option found a dead-end, a private gated road that has yet to be expanded.

"People got rerouted north to go back south. If that road been open, people could get through not problem," said Brittany McManus.

Why the delay? We asked Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta. 

"Political will. It takes political will to get it done," the commissioner said.

According to Barbetta, the developer is ready to build the road, but is waiting on the county to approve its 2050 Master Plan. 

"He's ready to build it; we just need to approve Lakewood Ranch South Village, which was conceptually approved in 2003...11 years later and we still don't have a stick in the ground," he said.

But that may be the county's quickest solution. State FDOT officials are planning a Diverging Diamond Interchange at the University Parkway and I-75 exit, but the project is about 20 years and 86 million dollars away.

As for expanding Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south into Sarasota County, Commissioner Barbetta expects commissioners to approve its 2050 plan in the next couple of months, allowing road construction to begin.

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