Benderson Development will submit plans to build two roundabouts on Cooper Creek Boulevard.
EAST COUNTY — Engineers have a circular fix in mind for traffic congestion at University Parkway and Cooper Creek Boulevard.
It comes in the form of roundabouts.
Benderson Development, owner of University Town Center shopping plazas along University Parkway, will submit plans in the next two weeks for constructing two roundabouts on Cooper Creek Boulevard, one north of its intersection with Tourist Center Drive and the other at the entrance to The Shoppes at UTC.
Plans call for the roundabouts, as well as the creation of a loop road that would run north from Casa Di Pizza, on Tourist Center Drive, and wind east to come out behind the Courtyard Marriott hotel and south of L.A. Fitness, on Cooper Creek Boulevard, at the southern roundabout.
Benderson Director of Development Todd Mathes said strong Christmas holiday sales in The Shoppes, at the northeast corner of Cooper Creek Boulevard and University Parkway, is prompting Benderson to add to the plan an additional southbound lane on Cooper Creek from the roundabouts to University Parkway. The Shoppes is home to retailers such as Pier 1 Imports, Marshalls and Home Goods, which opened in 2015.
“It’ll really help with the cars going south across the intersection," Mathes said. "They only get about 30 seconds of green time, and we’ll be able to get across twice as many cars.”
Property for the lane would come from green space on the west side of Cooper Creek.
Additionally, access to businesses in The District at UTC, along Tourist Center Drive, would become right-in, right-out only from Cooper Creek Boulevard. Northbound left turns onto the roadway would be eliminated. Instead, drivers would u-turn at the first roundabout for right-in entry or take the new loop road.
Mathes said the new overall design for Cooper Creek should help the roadway better handle traffic.
“We’ve spent a lot of time working with engineers and the contractor for coming up with a traffic plan,” Mathes said. “We’re going to add capacity.”
Benderson hopes to break ground on the roundabouts and loop road in the spring and have the project complete before the next Christmas holiday shopping season, he said.
Construction costs are estimated at $2.5 million and are being done on Benderson’s own volition. It believes it can complete the project effectively, with minimal impacts on traffic, by closing one lane at a time and having most of the construction work completed at night.
“Nobody’s more interested in it being functional than us,” Mathes said.
The plans must make their way through Manatee County’s permitting process, once submitted.
If the designs are approved, Benderson’s contractor also will coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation, which recently started work to reconfigure the intersection of University Parkway and Interstate 75, to help ensure minimal traffic impacts during construction, Mathes said.
Manatee County has three existing roundabouts with others under various levels of consideration, including two contemplated by the Florida Department of Transportation and the one by Benderson, said Sage Kamiya, deputy director of traffic management for Manatee.
Sarasota County has 13 existing roundabouts, including three on Cattlemen Road in front of The Mall at University Town Center, which Benderson co-owns with Taubman Centers.
Carolyn Eastwood, Sarasota County’s interim county engineer, said the roundabout design at intersections is one gaining popularity not just in Florida, but nationally because the design reduces delays for drivers and improves safety because vehicles are traveling at lower speeds.
“It’s more efficient because people are moving through instead of waiting,” she said, adding the roundabouts at The Mall at UTC are working well. “From a traffic capacity standpoint, they definitely are much more efficient. There’s no question about that.”