A plan for a multi-million-dollar transportation program was put on hold Tuesday when Sarasota County Commissioners voted to withdraw an application to the federal government seeking funding for a bus rapid transit program.
The bus rapid transit program had a projected capital cost of between $5 million and $10 million and would eventually have created rapid connection lines between such destinations as the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, downtown Sarasota, Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Westfield Southgate. The decision to pull the application surprised County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, the lone vote in favor of continuing to pursue the federal funds. "If we had BRT, it would have very much helped with the redevelopment of the North Trail, but that fell on deaf ears," Barbetta said. "I'm sure it's a money thing." Jonathan Paul, interim transportation planning director, told commissioners the project had merits but was definitely a large commitment in funding. Had the project continued, staff would have needed to identify funding for consultants to update project justification and enter into project development for the Small Starts program. That would also have put the project on a timeline; at whatever point the Federal Transportation Administration approved a county application, the BRT project would have to be completed and operational within five years of that point. "In the bigger picture, BRT has validity," Paul said. "The 41 corridor could serve real traffic patterns and there is potential to revitalize the 301 corridor, so it is something worth pursuing." But he acknowledged a $10 million commitment on matching a federal grant would be difficult. The plan for BRT has been part of discussions between Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota regarding North Trail redevelopment and with Manatee County regarding the potential merger of transit systems for both counties.
Original article published August 28, 2013, by SRQ Daily.