County works toward 'complete streets' plan

 

County works toward 'complete streets' plan

 

Date: January 9, 2013
by: Pam Eubanks | Managing Editor

 
 

 

MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County officials are taking steps to ensure future roadways — and improvements to existing roadways — encourage multimodal transportation and provide safe transit for walkers, bicyclist, motorists and others.

The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 3, to move forward with an amendment to the Manatee County Comprehensive Plan that sets a new goal, objective and policy that creates and maintains an integrated network of multimodal roadways for users, through a design called “complete streets.”

The complete-streets concept is a nationwide effort for governments to do a better job providing alternative transportation, including bicycle lanes, waking paths, transit and other options, in roadway designs.

“We’ve been very progressive with providing that type of infrastructure for many years,” Planning and Zoning official John Osborne said. “We’re already halfway there. The difference is now we look at it more context sensitive. We’re trying to get to the point where we have policies to direct us to consider the road and where it’s at.”

Osborne said the county’s current public-works engineering standards provide three engineering cross-sections for roads, all of which have a standard 12-foot travel lane for vehicles, a 4-foot bike lane and a 5-foot sidewalk. Under the complete-streets idea, the county will have other options available for new roadways, as well as roads that can be “retrofitted.”

For example, narrower vehicle travel lanes may be used on some roadways, so the county can provide a bike path or widened sidewalk. Designs will also be user sensitive; for example, in front of a school, the design may allow for a wider sidewalk only, instead of a sidewalk and a bike lane.

“Right now, we have handcuffs on the development community to do (a) suburban (design),” Osborne said, noting complete streets will provide guidance for urban-style development, such as that slated for Lakewood Ranch, north of State Road 70.

The county’s initial pilot projects for complete streets are located in west Bradenton and Palmetto, but Nick Lepp, project manager for the Renaissance Planning Group, which is assisting the county with the project, said the concept is one that will help govern development throughout Manatee, including in the East County.

For example, the county would be able to use its complete-streets policies to retrofit roads, or sections of roads, such as sections of Lockwood Ridge Road or 45th Street East, which has no sidewalk or bike lane.

“Features looked at last are now looked at the same level as cars,” Lepp said.

Renaissance Planning Group will provide complete streets guidelines, with proposed modified public works engineering standards, to the county in March, Lepp said.

Contact Pam Eubanks at peubanks@yourobserver.com.


In other business
• Commissioners approved a rezone of 2.75 acres at the southwest corner of State Road 64 and Lena Road to Planned Development Commercial and a preliminary site plan for a 5,928-square-foot RaceTrac gas station with a 10,933-square-foot canopy and 20 gas pumps.

The $5 million project is a prototype that features a stack-stone design and no spillage of lighting behind the property’s boundaries.

RaceTrac Project Manager Meghan Sitz said the company hopes to break ground on the project in 2014 and open the store four months later.

• Commissioners approved a change to the land development code that allowed the Ellenton Ice & Sports Complex to modify a previously approved electronic sign. Instead of constructing an 880-square-foot sign with only on-site advertising, the complex will be allowed to build a 672-square-foot electronic billboard sign that can have off-site advertising. The new sign will be 8 feet shorter, as well. 

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