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East County Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2021 1 week ago

Changes coming to Lakewood Ranch's Lorraine Road

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Manatee County has several improvements planned to better accommodate development between S.R. 64 and 70.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

When driving the roads of Lakewood Ranch, a 3-mile stretch of Lorraine Road between State Road 70 and State Road 64 sticks out like a sore thumb, according to Ogden Clark III, the strategic affairs manager for the Manatee County Public Works Department.

“You could argue that it’s been broken for a while,” Clark said. “Even as a two-lane road, it’s a substandard road.”

The widening of Lorraine Road from two lanes to four — which was not previously on the county’s five-year CIP — could start by Oct. 2024, according to the proposed CIP for the 2022 fiscal year, which must be reviewed and approved by commissioners before Oct. 1.

The project was placed on the proposed CIP after county commissioners said in April they wanted to see the widening of Lorraine Road accelerated, citing rapid development of homes and businesses along the route and the need to create an effective grid system.

“It needs to be four lanes all the way,” Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said in February, when she said the project was one of her top-three road priorities. “I think it's terrible that all of these new communities that are coming in and they're putting in their turn lanes, and we're going to come back to four-lane it and take them out. It makes absolutely no sense. The planning of that is horrendous.”

Clark said it often makes sense to wait until a road has reached its absolute maximum capacity because development plans often change. For example, plans for new outlet roads can crop up out of nowhere, especially when they’re built by private developers.

However, Clark also said in this case, the county was caught off guard by how quickly the area has been developing.

“That resulted in the board … saying, ‘Hey, this has got to get streamlined,’” Clark said. “‘It's on our list to be four lanes. How come it's not funded yet?’”

Business development along the northern portion of Lorraine Road includes a 7-Eleven at the intersection with S.R. 64. The northern side of the intersection will also include undisclosed projects developed by commercial real estate company CASTO.

Manatee County has several projects planned or underway along the stretch of Lorraine Road from S.R. 70 to S.R. 64. Source: Manatee County proposed capital improvement plan for fiscal years 2022-26.

A public-private partnership between the county and Publix improved the intersection at Lorraine and S.R. 70 to provide better access to the businesses there, such as Lorraine Corners Plaza, All Pets Clinic and, of course, Publix itself.

A couple of additional county projects are scheduled to come to Lorraine Road to accommodate the rapid development.

Construction of a traffic signal at Lorraine and Rangeland Parkway is scheduled to begin in August or September, according to Clark. Clark said the signal will better control increased traffic to Lorraine Corners Plaza, Publix and the surrounding businesses, especially because the incoming traffic signal at S.R. 70 and Post Boulevard might lead to an increase in motorists driving across S.R. 70, rather than turning onto it, and accessing the shopping center from Rangeland.

The addition of a traffic signal and turn lanes at the intersection of Lorraine Road and 44th Avenue East is scheduled for completion in Dec. 2022. The county has planned to extend 44th Avenue East across Interstate-75 to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, where it would connect with the portion of the road already constructed in Lakewood Ranch.

Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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