Sawgrass plans get Broward’s backing, but there could be a roadblock ahead

Sawgrass Mills shoppers, BB&T concert-goers and Sunrise residents and visitors could have an easier ride once an expanded Sawgrass Expressway interchange is built at Pat Salerno Drive.

Broward County commissioners Thursday supported plans that would create a full interchange there by adding a northbound Sawgrass ramp for drivers leaving the city and an exit for traffic coming south to get off the expressway.

But before they’ll give a final commitment, commissioners said Sunrise will have to do better than its current pledge of contributing $2 million toward the costs.

The Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, which manages the expressway, has estimated the cost of the project at $56 million, plus the cost of additional land acquisitions. The state has agreed to pay half the cost, leaving the local share between $28 million and $33 million, county officials said.

The county and city have until May 31 to reach agreement on how the local costs will be split. If not, the county would be able to back out of the agreement and the interchange improvements would not be done. The city has offered to use money it expects to receive from the county’s new transportation sales tax, but county officials said the proposed amount wasn’t enough. Commissioner Beam Furr said the city should consider using more sales tax dollars targeted for other city projects.

The city and county are also lobbying the state to increase its portion of the costs, which the state has been unwilling to do because officials say the tolls that will be generated at the interchange don’t justify the cost of the improvements.

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