A Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) plan to create a large Diverging Diamond interchange at Fruitville Road could render impossible a design for an innovative, walkable small town that's been gathering momentum for nearly 10 years.
More than 10 years ago, [a group of] property owners began working on the development with Sarasota County Commissioners and one common goal.
"[It was] designed around pedestrians walk-ability, mixed use and dispersing traffic through a whole street grid," said Steve Suau, the engineer working on the Fruitville Initiative.
The Fruitville Initiative would resemble a new downtown that was all set to break ground by the end of this year.
That is, until Thursday (6.21.18) when the Florida Department of Transportation unveiled its plan to put a diverging diamond here at a public hearing.
Comments from community leaders and developers of the Fruitville Initiative:
Channeling more traffic through the proposed Lakewood Ranch / Fruitville Road intersection could "implode" the walkable street grid that is essential to the plan, said Steve Suau, a stormwater expert who was part of the original community effort.
"That just defeats the whole purpose of dispersing traffic and walkability," he added.
"I think it would destroy it entirely," said Keith Gelder, vp of Stock Development, which recently purchased land to develop within the Initiative. He added:
"There was a very significant effort, a planning effort for the Fruitville Initiative, conducted over the last eight or nine years, with a tremendous amount of community input to try to create a nice new urbanism concept of a walkable community. What FDOT is proposing simply destroys that."
A public meeting at Selby Library on Thursday, June 21, apparently didn't answer anyone's questions. FDOT representatives said they were hearing these concerns for the first time, despite a paper trail going back years. It includes a 2014 letter from the former head of FDOT, Billy Hattaway, which states:
Our goal is to design an interchange . . . that is not only safe and operationally efficient but contextual to the planned Fruitville multi-way boulevard and surrounding compact, walkable, mixed-use development. We welcome the opportunity to continue working with the County and stakeholders in achieving that objective. (Italics added)
FDOT's site on the project can be found here.
FDOT plans Diverging Diamonds at Fruitville, Bee Ridge, and Clark Roads
Right now, the Fruitville Road project is in the design phase. It's not funded for construction but FDOT officials will meet in the summer to discuss development for the year 2024 or sooner if Sarasota County makes the project a priority. Once approved, construction is expected to cost $86,000,000.