Published: Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 7:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 7:50 p.m.
SARASOTA - An extensive project to overhaul the interchange at Interstate 75 and Bee Ridge Road went under the public's scrutiny for the first time Thursday evening.
The idea of adding an exit ramp for southbound I-75 traffic at Cattlemen Road and Wilkinson Road generated the most attention, especially from residents in that area south of Bee Ridge who worry about additional traffic on Wilkinson.
“We're dumping traffic on a 30 mph road with one lane each way,” said Tony DeSoiza, a resident of Center Gate Estates who was among the more than 200 people to come during the first hour of the two-hour information session.
He noted that 600 apartments are under construction southeast of that intersection. “That will add 600 more cars” to the traffic the new exit will bring, DeSoiza said.
Staff members of the Florida Department of Transportation displayed diagrams and discussed details with residents wanting to know specifics.
The project, which is still in the design phase and not yet funded for construction, involves:
■ Widening I-75 between Fruitville Road and Bee Ridge Road from three lanes to four lanes in each direction. The right lane in each direction will be exclusively for traffic leaving at the next exit.
■ Redesigning the interchange into a “hybrid diverging diamond” to make easier left turns onto I-75 from the eastbound lanes of Bee Ridge.
■ Creating the new exit ramp at Cattlemen and Wilkinson.
■ Redesigning the Bee Ridge and Cattlemen intersection to divert traffic turning north and south onto Cattlemen to the left.
“I think it's a good plan coming off at Wilkinson,” said Tracy Lux, who resides in the Crestwood Villas at the corner of Wilkinson and Honore Avenue, of the proposed new I-75 exit. “I don't think it will get a lot of traffic down Wilkinson. It's very narrow.”
She would like to see Sarasota County widen the two-lane portion of Honore Avenue between Proctor and Clark roads to eliminate a bottleneck. “That would manage the additional local traffic while this FDOT project is constructed.”
Yet many of DeSoiza's Center Gate neighbors shared his view.
“This is the most insane idea to put an exit on Wilkinson,” resident Marilyn Winstead said. “Webber would be better.”
Sandy Snyder, also a resident of Center Gate, agreed that Webber Street, which is north of Bee Ridge, should have been considered as an option for an exit. “Webber would be the ideal way to come in.”
“The noise level will be tenfold what it is now,” resident Cindy Miller said of the additional traffic at Cattlemen and Wilkinson.
Traffic in the area functions smoothly now, Center Gate resident Bob Pitre said. “My main concern is do we need any of this. We don't have problems now.”
FDOT spokesman Robin Stublen said the agency may be ready for a public hearing about the project in late March. “We'll present the final concept at that time.”