Manatee County schedules the $2.8 million traffic light project in response to residents' requests for a safer intersection.
Drivers who count on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard as their major thoroughfare are about to experience some inconveniences over the next year or more.
Construction to put a signal light at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard's intersection with Balmoral Woods Boulevard and Water Lily Way is scheduled to begin this week and is expected to take about 13 months to run through late July 2023.
Another similar project will take place at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard's intersection with Clubhouse Drive but no construction starting date has been announced, though it expected to begin later this year.
Although those who zip through Lakewood Ranch might not be enthusiastic about the new red lights, residents of the Lakewood Ranch Country Club and The River Club have been waiting for years for a traffic light at the Balmoral Woods Boulevard and Water Lily Way.
James Rogoze, the chair of the board of CDD 6, said the signal came about due to extensive advocacy by residents.
“There's a long history of residents wanting, and being very active, in trying to get the attention of the county to install the lights,” he said.
According to Rogoze, issues at the Balmoral Woods Boulevard/Water Lily Way intersection with Lakewood Ranch Boulevard intensified after the Fort Hamer Bridge opened in 2017, creating a north-south artery for those who previously would have used Interstate 75. The extension of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Fruitville Road in Sarasota also brought more motorists.
That additional traffic made it difficult for those in the adjacent neighborhoods to turn onto Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
Rogoze said that speeding has became a greater problem, which meant that turning onto the road — particularly making a left hand turn by crossing over one side of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard — became increasingly difficult.
“There were many near misses,” he said.
Rogoze said that eventually change began to occur. A few years ago, a petition to add a traffic signal circulated and was signed by approximately 850 people. Residents began attending Manatee County Commission meetings to address the need.
Albert Rosenstein, a senior project engineer for Manatee County Public Works, said the project is moving forward and is on track. Halfacre Construction is doing the work.
Rosenstein said the project includes the traffic signal and roadway improvements, such as the installation of 2 miles of fiber-optic cable, and the installation of traffic monitoring and data collection devices, along with alternations to turn lanes.
The northbound to eastbound turn lane will be lengthened by approximately 20 feet. Rosenstein said this expansion would increase the safety of the road; a traffic study had likely been performed, which showed that vehicles were too numerous to merge into the lane safely at its current length.
The eastbound approach of Water Lily Way will also be repainted, providing left and right turn lanes.
Pedestrian crossings, with signs, will be added.
Advanced Traffic Management System devices will be included at the intersection to provide data on road use. Two miles of fiber-optic cable to facilitate communication between this traffic light, and others, will also be installed, though Rosenstein said that in this case, the work will be performed off-road.
Also taking place will be the removal and reapplication of 1.5 inches of asphalt in order to better allow the county to create the traffic signal foundations, as well as to provide a new surface to use when repainting the roadways for the pedestrian crossings and lane adjustments. He said this replacement would extend from, roughly, the area of the turn lane expansion and then through the intersection, reaching a length of about 400 feet.
He said the signal portion of the $2.8 million project should be operational by December.
Rosenstein said that during construction, traffic will be redirected with typical lane closures for certain operations, though at this time there is no information about the length of time or the dates these closures will take place.
He said during paving of the road, lane closures will last the entire working day, typically during the normal hours for lane closures which are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though in some cases the contractor might seek special permission to bring in concrete trucks to pour the signal foundations.
Rosenstein said that impacts on traffic to the surrounding areas should be minimal.
“On construction projects, you never have a perfect set of plans,” he said. “Whether it's building construction or roadway construction, there's always contingencies that come up.”
Rosenstein said that the traffic signal demonstrated the county’s response to concerns from the community.
“A lot of the locals have asked about a traffic signal being installed in that area,” he said. “The county commissioners, and the county, are responding to that.”
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