Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocates (BPA) has been very active with the reconstruction of Myrtle Street, between US 301 and Old Bradenton Road.
On November 22, 2001, the City and County Commissions decided on the cheapest option for Myrtle, between US 301 and Old Bradenton Road. They chose the option that involved only providing one sidewalk, on the south side of the road. They chose this over the option of providing two sidewalks, bike lanes, and lighting.
We did some research and found 21 safety reasons why sidewalks on both sides, bike lanes, and lighting made sense for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, buses, and emergency vehicles. BPA also provided 4 economic development reasons why this section of road should match its connecting parts, east and west, as well as most of the major north-south roads it meets.
These reasons are detailed in a letter that appears after this blog post.
BPA began meeting with community organizations and quickly found strong support for reconstructing Myrtle the correct way, the way that all the last few major reconstructions in the County have been done……….with sidewalks, bike lanes, and lighting. The three last county projects we are referring to are Fruitville, from I-75 to Coburn, Bahia Vista (Pinecraft area), and South Honore.
It should be noted that Myrtle has bike lanes, lighting, and at least one sidewalk, on its parts to the east and west of the proposed reconstruction. But, somehow, this section has been built with only one sidewalk for part of the way, no sidewalks for the rest, and no bike lanes or lighting.
Eventually, we achieved a historic first. All five NHAs, along the entire length of Myrtle, from Bay Shore Road to Tuttle, signed letters of support. This was done in recognition of the fact that even though the section proposed for reconstruction may not be in someone’s neighborhood, they will use it when their section feeds into it.
This phenomenon, all of the NHAs along the corridor, supporting reconstruction of just one part of the corridor, is something that may be replicated elsewhere in Sarasota in the future.
The following organizations have signed letters urging the City and County to rebuild Myrtle with sidewalks on both sides, bike lanes, and lighting.
Indian Beach Sapphire Shores Association
Bayou Oaks NHA
Janie’s Garden NHA
Amaryllis Park NHA
North County Improvement Organization
North Trail Redevelopment Partnership
Booker High School
On February 21, this community coalition’s opinion was presented to the City Commission, prompting them to vote 5-0 for the more complete street.
On February 23, the opinion was presented to the County Commission and they directed their staff to figure out, with the City, how to fund it.
On March 14, County Engineer Jim Harriott revealed that the City has reportedly offered $1.6 million for the project, which is estimated to cost $6.9 million. The County estimated that it had found roughly $1 million from various funds and continues to search its various sources. Harriott spoke of the possibility of finding funding sources over a several year period and building the project in stages.
Regarding money, this project is different from most because it is partially in the City and partially in the County. And, apparently, there is no set protocol for how the City and County share costs in this type of situation. Some say that since it is formally a “County maintained road”, responsibility for funding belongs entirely to the County. Some in the County maintain that since Myrtle is in the City, from the railroad tracks to Old Bradenton, that the City should pay something.
It is apparent that this joint jurisdiction has been part of the problem as Myrtle, where it is entirely in the City, or in the County, is well built. It is only this section, which is in joint jurisdiction, that has not been well built. This is sad because it has left the Newtown Community without one of its main roads in good shape. East of Newtown, from US 301 to Tuttle, Myrtle is well built, with sidewalks, bike lanes, and lighting. West of Newtown, Myrtle will have at least one sidewalk, bike lanes, and lighting. But, in Newtown itself, Myrtle is a disgrace.