With new businesses going in along Lena Road, will it connect?
Hardly a day goes by without Lakewood Ranch resident Anita Pope hearing about Lena Road and its future.
The roadway ends as it heads both north and south, with a forrest in between.
Pope’s Lena Road-based business, Swim Gym of Lakewood Ranch, offers swim lessons in 10-minute sessions, forcing parents to be timely for their children’s appointments. But, accidents on Interstate 75 or neighboring roadways can have big impacts.
“It’s been quite a topic of conversation,” said Pope, who is on the southern section of the road. “It’s every day because people are getting caught in the traffic.”
Lena Road is a designated thoroughfare on the county’s comprehensive plan and ultimately is planned to be a four-lane roadway connecting State Road 70 with State Road 64.
Currently, the northern section serves county property, including the Lena Road Landfill, and a mix of separate low-density residential and non-residential uses.
The southern section lies within the Creekwood East Development of Regional Impact, a large-scale development that spans west to the Creekwood neighborhood and east of Lena Road.
Sage Kamiya, deputy director of traffic management for Manatee County Public Works, said the project is not included in the county’s five-year capital improvement plan.
“The future 44th Avenue East roadway, when constructed over Interstate 75, will have an intersection with Lena Road,” he said. “However, extending Lena Road is not currently funded.”
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said there are no plans to add it to the capital improvement plan, but commissioners will evaluate the plan over the summer to ensure roadway priorities are in line with the county’s needs.
“The growth we are seeing is going to dictate what we need to do, that and public safety,” she said. “We will see what we need to best move traffic.”
Business owners on both sides of the roadway say the connection would be advantageous both for themselves and their customers. It would provide an alternative north-south connector road besides I-75 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, which often are clogged with traffic.
Brian Lewis, a Mill Creek resident who owns Lewis Automotive on the north end, is one of them.
“I think they should do it as soon as possible,” he said, adding it would increase business. “It will ease traffic and take pressure off the other roadways. If you just have to go one exit, that would ease some traffic.”
Mechanic Nicholas Cimini, who also lives on the north side of Lena Road, agreed.
“I have to take the interstate all the time,” he said. “I could go straight down.”
On the south side, Realtor Mike Sporer, who helped with the development of the industrial/office park there, has advocated for the road’s construction for a decade. He said the cul-de-sac where Lena Road dead-ends has become a waste yard for people who expect to drive north to the landfill.
“They need more north-south roads,” he said. “I just kept waiting. Back in the day, (former County Commissioner) Donna Hayes was championing this for us. When she was no longer on the county commission, everything sort of stopped. With the traffic situation as bad as it is on the freeway, it’s never been more logical to put that road through.”
Jeff Clary, owner of Giraffe Packaging and Moving, said customers would like to see the roadway extended, as would he.
“It would cut down drive time for customers on State Road 64,” he said. “We get asked at least once a week about the road. We’ve been hearing since move in and it still hasn’t been done.”