The $12.9 million SUNTrail Loop on Anna Maria Island is now positioned to secure state funding quicker than previously expected.
The Island Transportation Planning Organization received an update at its June 5 meeting at Anna Maria City Hall from Lynn Burnett, contract engineer to the three island cities and a technical adviser to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The ITPO advises the MPO on island transportation issues. A rotating seat on the MPO board among the island mayors is presently held by Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy.
Burnett’s report indicates the AMI Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail Loop is on the fast track financially.
The Holmes Beach loop is ranked No. 1 in Manatee County by the Florida Department of Transportation in its list of new multi-use trail projects and No. 1 on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection list of new transportation projects.
The Bradenton Beach portion of the AMI loop is ranked No. 2.
The AMI loop will run from the southern limits of Holmes Beach on State Road 789 to the Marina-East Bay drives intersection and from Longboat Pass Bridge on SR789-Gulf Drive to 27th Street North in Bradenton Beach.
The AMI SunTrail is proposed for two 11-foot wide vehicle lanes with a 3-foot separation on each side for a paved 10-foot wide bike path on one side of Gulf Drive and a 10-foot sidewalk on the other.
Hard work, networking and advance planning helped position the loop highly on the state funding lists, Burnett said.
“Everybody knows what we’ve already asked for because they are 60 to 90 percent complete on the design plan,” said Burnett. “It’s not only shovel ready, it’s already under construction or will be by the end of the fiscal year. That’s huge.”
Rights of way are established. Preliminary design cross-sections have been prepared and corridor surveys are more than halfway complete, according to the Burnett.
Engineering, design and permitting costs have been funded with Transportation Regional Incentive Program and Southwest Florida Water Management District matching funds.
Gulf Drive provides a key travel connection between five municipalities, including Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Bradenton and Longboat Key, which adds to the project’s importance.
Ordinarily, a project emerging from the design phase would have to wait at least five years before being funded under state protocols. Possibly, not this one.
“The SUNTrail funding could be sooner than five years out,” said David Hutchinson, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“When we started this, we thought we might be 10 years out,” Burnett said. “We’ve now cut that time frame in half.”
Hutchinson warned against complacency or overconfidence.
“We’re competing with projects all around the state,” he said.
“That’s the concern,” said Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon.
Hutchinson said any “shovel-ready” project gives jurisdictions a leg up with state funding decision-makers.
DOT spokesman Robin Stublen said the AMI SUNTrail Loop is still not in the tentative five-year work program. The DEP is expected to decide whether the AMI loop is a priority by December, Stublen said.
If selected as a priority trail, the MPO could apply for funding.
The Florida SUNTrail Network is directed by the DOT. The network involves a statewide, paved, multi-use trail network for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The paved component of the Florida Greenways and Trails System is planned by the DEP. Multi-use trails are defined as paved, shared-use paths.
Top 5 Sarasota-Manatee FDOT project requests
1. Manatee County Willow-Ellenton multi-use trail on U.S. 301 from Ellenton to Parrish. Under construction.
2. Holmes Beach multi-modal loop from the southern city limits to the Marina Drive intersection on State Road 789. New project.
3. Bradenton Beach multi-modal loop from Longboat Pass Bridge to 27th Street North on State Road 789. New.
4. Sarasota County Legacy Trail environmental study of multi-use extension to Payne Park. New.
5. Manatee County multi-use trail on University Parkway from Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Lorraine Road New.
Source: Florida Department of Transportation.