by Roger Normand
We are on the cusp of realizing a remarkable milestone to extend the Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota. Suddenly, unbelievably, our vision for a paved, multiuse path along the abandoned, unsightly rail corridor that stretches from Culverhouse Nature Park to Payne Park and Fruitville will, by the end of this month, become County property. That’s a critical precursor to proceeding with the design and engineering of the trail extension. Our six year quest, capped by the astounding support of 71 percent of County voters during the November 2018 referendum to extend the Legacy Trail IS REALLY HAPPENING!
Much has been going on behind the scenes to proceed with the purchase:
- The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Sarasota County completed their due diligence review (environmental assessment, title search, boundary survey, leases and encroachment issues). All concerns were resolved satisfactorily.
- The County completed its competitive solicitation process and selected Kimley-Horne and Associates for design and engineering support for the extension. The County is now finalizing the scope of work, which will include cost analysis and design for the North Port connection. The contract is expected to be submitted to the County Commissioners by July 10 for approval.
- On June 4, the County will be selling $37 million in general obligation bonds (of the $65 million authorized in the referendum) to purchase the rail corridor and pay for initial design and engineering of the trail extension. It also includes $2 million for the North Port connection. Contact your financial institution if you’d like to hold some of these bonds in your portfolio!
- The County and Florida Department of Transportation have agreed to realign $8.5 million in FL SUN Trail funds provided for the extension to Ashton Road. FDOT will retain the funds and now be responsible for the design, bidding and construction of both the Bee Ridge and Clark Road overpasses. This resolves a timing issue (the SUN funds were programmed in 2022/2023), and allows the County to proceed with the immediate design and accelerated construction of the flat trail. The design and construction of the Clark Road trail overpass is particularly complicated: FDOT plans to simultaneously straighten the McIntosh Road intersection so the overpass carries trail uses across both Clark and McIntosh Roads.
- We can expect TPL and the County to close on the purchase from CSX ~ June 25, with a public event celebrating the milestone a few days later. We plan to mobilize our FLT member “yellow shirt brigade” at the event. We will issue an email blast once the County finalizes the timing and location.
Trail supporters, June will truly be a remarkable month.