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pay enough attention to the signage to make traffic flow as smoothly as those consultants claim it will. If FDOT is successful in getting the money from the Legislature during the current ses sion, the next big step has to be a public relations campaign. A n d t h a t m u s t b e followed quickly by planning of strategies to ensure construction will "flow" around the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Given the estimate of 42,000 attendees that has been bandied about by local tourism leaders and the head of the nonprofit organization that manages park events — plus the fact the event will be the first exposure of many of those visitors to Sarasota and Manatee counties — the last thing any of us needs is a traffic nightmare that would make the evacuation scenes in the film Independence Day pale in comparison. To say a dramatic change in traffic manage ment is needed at University Parkway and Interstate 75 is a vast understatement. State Rep. Greg Steube pointed out last month to Roger Drouin, The Sarasota News Leader's county editor, that the dire demand for improvements was painted for him in bold col ors when a January accident on I75 resulted in horrendous backups as commuters and residents navigated around a closed section of University Parkway. It was just weeks later that Steube organized a meeting in Tallahassee so FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad could talk in cando terms about the diverging diamond with leaders from Sarasota and Manatee counties as well as representa tives of Schroeder Manatee Ranch and Benderson. The latter firms are committed through development agreements to helping with some of the smaller local pieces of the big jigsaw puzzle whose heart will be the new interchange. County officials came back home with the news that FDOT needed resolutions of support for the diverging diamond so the department could plead its case in the Legislature. Those resolutions followed in pretty quick order — about as fast as we have seen local gov ernments move on a matter. For all this, we highly commend Steube and the two county commissions and their managers. Of course, the big "if" now is whether Steube and FDOT can make the money a reality. Nobody has been talking about a figure, but we feel it is safe to assume that it is at least going to be in double digits, with "million" behind them. Chief among our reservations about the diverging diamond is whether drivers will pay enough attention to the signage to make traffic flow as smoothly as those consultants claim it will. OPINION Sarasota News Leader April 11, 2014 Page 84

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