Decongesting I-75–University Parkway Gaining Headway


Concerted state and county efforts are fast moving forward to ease traffic at the Interstate 75–University Parkway interchange, developments which can further burnish the marketability of Sarasota homes for sale.

An average of 115,500 to 123,500 vehicles has been estimated either entering or exiting this interchange on the Sarasota-Manatee county line daily. A significant increase in this traffic volume has been widely anticipated with the October 2014 opening of the new Mall at University Town Center just west of the interchange. Added vehicular traffic is likewise expected with many new residential property developments which have been sprouting around this area.

First “diverging diamond” solution

Decongesting I-75–University Parkway Gaining Headway

Traffic decongestion at I-75–University Parkway is on the horizon as Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced that it will solicit bids for an $83-million “diverging diamond” project at the interchange. If plans proceed as scheduled, construction could begin in July 2015 and the project completed by August or September 2017 just prior to the World Rowing Championships inaugurals at the Nathan Benderson Rowing Park near the interchange.

As part of the project, which will build the first diverging diamond interchange in Florida, the FDOT will expand to eight lanes from the current six the 3.5-mile I-75 stretch from north of Fruitville Road to north of University Parkway. Eventually, this section could be further expanded to 12 lanes with designations for express, general and local traffic.

More road widening and extensions

Additionally, there will be a road widening in about a mile of University Parkway from the Cattlemen Road–Cooper Creek Boulevard junction to the Market Street–Lake Osprey Drive intersection. The FDOT is also scheduled to complete design upgrades which would increase to eight lanes the 6.75-mile I-75 stretch from north of University Parkway to south of SR 64. This section could also be widened further to 10 lanes.

At the local level, the Sarasota County Commission has approved a two-lane road extending Lakewood Ranch Boulevard southward to Richardson and Coburn roads to link with Fruitville Road. Project funding will be provided by Lakewood Ranch developer, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch (SMR), with ground breaking possibly in the second half of 2015.

New span to open I-75 alternative

In Manatee County, an eastward extension of 44th Avenue is now being undertaken eventually in stages. With this avenue’s existing link to Cortez Road, 44th Avenue could form a part of a new east–west road access from the beaches to Lakewood Ranch,. This would require the construction of an overpass at Interstate 75, which is part of the county’s overall plan.

Manatee County has also received federal permits to build the long-awaited Fort Hamer Bridge across the Manatee River. Construction is expected to start early 2015.

This span, estimated to cost between $21 million and $23 million, will link Fort Hamer Road in Parrish with Upper Manatee River Road on the south shore, which connects with Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. This will create a north–south alternative to I-75. With Lakewood Ranch Boulevard extended to Fruitville, motorists could drive from Parrish to Sarasota without taking the interstate route.