SARASOTA, Fla. -- Take a drive across the bay area -- and most of the scenery you'll see is construction cones especially along the interstates. The Florida Department of Transportation just wrapped up a big project on Interstate 75 in Sarasota and it has started work on another and each project is working toward one of the biggest highway projects in recent history.
The state’s first diverging diamond interchange and the country’s largest with six lanes opened last month along the Manatee and Sarasota county line allowing 130,000 cars along I-75 and the 70,000 on University Parkway to keep moving.
But that’s just the beginning. FDOT is aligning the interstate to prepare making I-75 a 10-lane highway.
“We anticipate a need if you look at the growth off University Parkway and the number of housing developments along State Roads 64 and 70,” says Robin Stublen, FDOT spokesperson.
FDOT’s newest I-75 project is seven miles north of University Parkway at the State Road 64 interchange to be completed in fall 2019.
Stublen says, “What we’re doing is taking the modified clover leaf there eliminate B exit ramp heading north on 64. People will get off on an extended ramp on 64 heading north.”
The on and off ramps will be extended, too, and the bridge altered to handle 10 lanes around 2040.
Drivers will notice bigger changes next year when work on the State Road 70 exit between State Road 64 and University Parkway begins.
Stublen says, “That will bring two alternate lanes up to join State Road 64 exchange and two lanes going south that will join at the University Parkway interchange.”
“What we found out in our studies is a lot of drivers will take one interchange to the next to go to work,” Stublen.
FDOT will soon open alternate lanes from University Parkway south to Fruitville Road.
“This enables drivers if they’re coming from Fruitville Road to University Parkway to stay to the outside lane of I-75 don’t have to merge to three lanes with through traffic literally drive from Fruitville Road to University Parkway on alternate lane,” explains Stublen.
The new alternate lanes along with any bridge replacements are made with the future of a 10-lane highway in mind. Stublen says, “We don’t have to tear anything up. We just have to add to that.” Stublen adds that saves taxpayer dollars.
FDOT also has plans for the U.S. 301 interchange in Ellenton.
So far there's no date but that project will add more alternate roads and widen or replace the bridge there to handle a 10 lane highway.