SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Big changes are on the way for one of the busiest thoroughfares in southern Sarasota County. The Florida Department of Transportation recently began construction on major improvements for River Road.

The project aims to improve safety along the notoriously dangerous road. Over the years, troopers with Florida Highway Patrol have responded to numerous crashes along the two-lane stretch — many of them deadly.

“Unfortunately, the Florida Highway Patrol has seen several fatalities on River Road simply because when it does get wet out here, the water will end up on the road and it really earns its name River Road,” Trooper Kenn Watson said. “Because it is simply a two-lane road, there are folks that will pass when they should not. Making these poor decisions can cost lives.”

“I couldn’t tell you the number of fatalities that we have had here, from accidents with vehicles and accidents with wildlife as well,” North Port Mayor Pete Emrich said.

Crews have already started clearing the path to widen the roadway.

River Road from Interstate 75 to Center Road will go from two to four lanes. The stretch from Center Road to U.S. 41 will be expanded from two to six lanes.

The entire stretch will also include a raised, grassy median. As part of the improvements, the state will also build 10-foot wide shared-use paths for pedestrians and bicyclists. Wildlife crossings and streetlights will also be added along the five-mile stretch of River Road.

The estimated cost of the project is $47.5 million. Construction is expected to wrap up in early 2025.

“This has been needed for a decade and it is finally a blessing to see that the people in south county and during a hurricane evacuation, those people in Charlotte county that use it will have a safe and reliable road to be able to travel on,” Congressman Greg Steube said.