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East County Friday, May 20, 2022 1 month ago

Lakewood Ranch motorists split over a planned traffic light or roundabout on Lorraine Road

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Those who use Lorraine Road agree traffic control is needed but debate whether a signal or a roundabout is needed at Players Drive.
by: Ian Swaby Staff Writer

Country Club East's Kathy Leher tires of taking the long way around when it comes to exiting Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, where she lives.

 

Like other residents in the area, she said the north and southbound traffic on Lorraine Road has become too dangerous to navigate as she tries to turn left to enter the road from Players Drive. She was pleased to hear Manatee County had planned a traffic signal for the intersection.

But now she might have to wait a bit longer as, with the signal light 60% planned, the Manatee County Public Works has been asked to study whether a roundabout might be a bitter fit for the intersection.

“You can’t get out onto Lorraine if you want to make a left,” Leher said. “And the median isn’t big enough for a car to go halfway (and wait). You’ve got to go all the way, or not at all.”

Because of the danger, Leher said she turns right on Lorraine Road and makes a u-turn when she can.

According to the latest information on the traffic signal released by Manatee County, the project would include signals installed on all four legs of the intersection and will include Advanced Traffic Management System devices such as closed-circuit television cameras, motor Vehicle Detection System and Bluetooth data collection detectors. That's if the roundabout isn't feasible.

The reason for a traffic signal, or roundabout, is that area growth has led to an extreme increase in usage, with more residential development and vehicles on the way.

The county's analysis stated, “The side street traffic is expected to experience higher delays due to increased traffic volume along Lorraine Road. Based on a traffic study, the warrants to install a traffic signal at this intersection were met.”

It said the staff's study also recommended installing pedestrian crossing features.

Ogden Clark, strategic affairs manager for the Public Works Department, confirmed the cost and feasibility of the roundabout is being evaluated.

District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she had requested the county to consider the idea of a roundabout.

“It would certainly help to slow traffic down, as well as help to reduce the noise," Baugh said. "The faster a car goes, the louder it is. I hope to eventually have more than one roundabout on the road.”

She said roundabouts, in general, are preferable to traffic lights.

"With traffic lights, people zoom toward them, and then slam on their brakes. With roundabouts,  you can’t do that."

However, the vehicles must slow down to negotiate the curves.

Bill Logan, public information officer for Manatee County, said the roundabout is too speculative for a comment.

“At this point, the plans for the traffic signal are still on the books, and are still the plan for this intersection,” he said.

Residents interviewed were split as to whether they preferred the light or a traffic circle. However, all agreed that it was essential for the county to introduce a means of moderating the traffic as soon as possible.

Leher and her husband Jack Leher both expressed a preference for a signal.

“The traffic is moving too fast on Lorraine for a roundabout,” Jack Leher said.

He said the traffic along Lorraine Road poses a hazard, especially as bushes located in the road median obstruct the view of traffic trying to turn on to the road.

“You make a left, and the traffic is on top of you before you know it,” he said. “That’s why you’ve got to have a light.”

He also said traffic entering and exiting Players Drive to get to Country Club East continually increases.

One of the main concerns by residents about a roundabout is that it doesn't completely stop traffic and therefore might still make it hard to enter Lorraine Road without a break.

“I think if there were a circle there, people would be coming too fast,” Country Club East's Ginny Lamb said.

 She noted the speed limit on the road is being raised to 40 miles per hour on that section of Lorraine Road.

She also said roundabouts on State Roads 64 and 70 made more sense than on Lorraine Road.

“There are lights all the way down the rest of the way (on Lorraine),” she said.

Country Club East residents Greg Hagopian and his wife Gina Hagopian said that their preference was for a roundabout.

“Someone’s going to get killed," Greg Hagopian said. "It’s an absolute safety issue. You might have fender benders, but you're not going to have fatalities at a roundabout.”

While he agreed there was a concern of drivers not understanding how to navigate traffic circles, he said they are the safest option.

“They are a very successful, very safe method of slowing down traffic and regulating ingress and egress," he said. "They’re used all over the country. They have been used in downtown Sarasota effectively and at UTC effectively. People get used to them.”

Gina Hagopian said while a traffic light backs up traffic at many points throughout the day, a circle would only do so at certain rush hour times, leaving the roads clearer.

Country Club's Christine Shaklak said she preferred a traffic light, and echoed Jim Leher’s comments about the levels of traffic.

"I don't think it keeps traffic moving in downtown Sarasota, when there's too many people in that small area,” she said.

Currently on Lorraine Road at rush hour, she said she can't get anywhere.

Shaklak said she prefers a traffic light to give her the opportunity to get across the road to make a left turn. She said it's all a matter of the community growing too fast and the roads not being able to keep pace with that growth.

Joseph Brielmann, who moved out of the Country Club in 2020, said the intersections along Lorraine Road are difficult.

He also said roundabouts are preferred by cyclists.

“It keeps the flow of traffic, and I feel a lot of safer,” he said.

He said that he drives S.R. 64 daily, and finds the effect of the circles beneficial.

“I think it slows down traffic just enough, and it doesn't hold me up,” he said.

Country Club resident Keith Kuhlmann said a roundabout is the best option, and makes more sense considering the proposed speed limit increase in the area from 35 to 40 miles per hour. He said in non-rush hour traffic, roundabouts keep traffic flowing better than a signal light.

All the residents interviewed said it was a time for better traffic control.

“We need it fairly quickly,” Jack Leher said.

Esplanade's Steve Nantais wouldn't be surprised if the county opts for a roundabout.

"They’re installing them everywhere," he said. "I guess it’s the way of the world. As long as people follow the directions, it cuts down on the wait times. People are building lots of them, and people will learn how to use them."

Waterside's Ed Pires said he is used to roundabouts.

"As long as people know how to use them, the traffic flows more easily, and I think more people will learn how to use them. There are a bunch in Sarasota. It just keeps the traffic flowing."

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