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East County Thursday, Mar. 17, 2022 5 months ago

Manatee considers new speed limits for Lorraine Road

Those who use Lorraine Road in Lakewood Ranch generally are please with proposed changes to speed limit.
by: Ian Swaby Staff Writer

Many of those who drive Lorraine Road in Lakewood Ranch remember when it was a quieter place.

“I don't ride my horse there anymore,” Sarasota's Jim Moss, 59, said.

A recent proposal from the Manatee County Traffic Engineering Division to adjust the speed limits on Lorraine Road produced varied responses from residents, with a majority favoring the proposal.

Manatee County's staff proposed a speed limit of 40 mph from University Parkway to Rangeland Parkway, which would be a rise of 5 mph from the current speed limit of 35. Rangeland Parkway is just over a half mile north of State Road 70.

Meanwhile, the speed limit from Rangeland Parkway to State Road 64 would decrease 5 mph to 45 mph.

A majority of those who drive the corridor on a regular basis, expressed a positive view of raising the speed limit from Rangeland Parkway to University Parkway

Natalie Landinez, 25, who lives off White Eagle Boulevard, said 35 mph was simply too slow for that stretch of road.

“The fact that there are often speed traps in that area doesn't seem fair," Landinez said. "It’s setting you up, and the road is busy.”

Sarasota's Anne McFall, 55, expressed concerns about the areas surrounding the road.

“There's a school out there,” she said. “I feel like everyone drives so fast anyway, if you raise the speed limit, the number just goes five miles above that. I think with more growth and congestion, it should stay at 35. Why is everyone in such a hurry?”

According to Bill Logan, the information outreach manager for Manatee County, the Manatee County Commission is set to vote on the new measures in April, and if they are approved, new signs will be posted in May.

He said Manatee County's Traffic Engineering Division makes its recommendations based on a range of factors which include traffic volume, roadway geometry, access points, crash history, surrounding land uses, types of road users, and more.

“Not all factors are weighted equally, and there is no quantitative weighted scale,” he said. “Extensive research and experience suggest that a reasonable and prudent driver chooses a speed they feel comfortable traveling based on roadway and weather conditions – regardless of a posted speed limit.”

While the section of road from Rangeland to University Parkway is fairly wide open, except for a school zone, the Rangeland to State Road 64 stretch is set to be upgraded with constant construction. That section of road eventually will be four lanes.

Logan said that the new speed limits are designed to match the 85th percentile speed – the one that speed studies show at least 85 percent of drivers theoretically travel. He said engineers often assign speed limits this way, once  they have assessed the other road conditions and determined they do not impact safety.

Logan said if the amendment is passed, the minimum measures taken will involve the replacement of signs to reflect the new speed limit. It remains to be seen whether certain curves will need additional signage for suggested speeds in the case that they are not safe to travel at the new speed.

“Think of those yellow signs on the interstate off ramp that suggest your speed,” he said.

Once the recommendations are complete, they are presented to the County Commission as an amendment to the County Code of Ordinances, and it is the commission which has the final say about whether the new speeds will be adopted.

“It's way too low, I think,” East County's Diane Wardell, 60, said. Wardell lives off State Road 70 near Panther Ridge and she has to gear down with the slow speed limit on Lorraine headed to University Parkway.

“It's a big double (lane) road with a divider and there are no businesses or anything there," she said. "Thirty-five is way too slow. I think it should go even higher. I'd like to see it 45 or 50, until there’s a reason to lower it."

She said that due to construction recently along the interstate, as well as remodeling of State Road 70, she has been taking Lorraine Road as an alternative. 

“It's faster to go down Lorraine than jumping to the interstate,” she said. “It's definitely a through road. I think that's what it's supposed to be — to take traffic off the interstate.”

Wardell's neighbor, Lisa Ohern, 61, said the road is a major thoroughfare for her.

"You need to be able to move traffic faster, with all the increase in the people," she said. "I would like to see the speed limit increase for sure.”

John Pluebell, 49, frequents the roadways and he said people's concern for safety on Lorraine is more connected to the need for traffic signals, as opposed to speed limit. He said his Lakewood Ranch parents, who are both in their 80s, would like to see more stoplights, and more signal lights.

“I think at this point that the key stretch is where the Country Club (neighborhood) is,” Pluebell said, adding that his parents generally make U-turn to get into the flow of traffic on Lorraine.

He said the increase of 5 mph was preferable to a rise of 10 mph. He said he likes the gradual increase.

Bradenton's Dana Gaddis, 57, said she favors a higher speed limit.

“Granted, I don't live in the community,” she said, “So sometimes people living in a community, it's different. But driving up and down Lorraine Road and knowing it's a main thoroughfare to keep you off I 75, I would think a little bit higher speed limit would be better. There are turn lanes to get into communities, so it's not like you have to stop in the middle of the lane, and block it to turn.”

She said perhaps if the speed limits were higher, people would be more inclined to stay in them.

“I'm not 100% sure on that, if that will work or not. Some of the people are just crazy, no matter what. But I think there are those who are speeding when it’s 35 because they feel it's too slow.”

Sarasota's Jim Moss, 59, doesn't like the increase in the speed limit.

“That’s not good," he said. "Already you see dead deer on the road because all the developments, and there's no place for them. They wander out in the road and the cars are going too fast.”

He said it shouldn't be hard to enforce the 35 mpg speed limit.

“Everybody knows that the police are there," he said.

Alysia Quinn , 39, said he travels Lorraine taking her kids to school each day. She said she has seen multiple accidents.

“It’s not a good idea (raising the speed limit) with the increased volume of cars and people," she said.

At night, some residents say the strip of road is used for racing.

“There are some known spots where kids go to race cars," McFall said. "Definitely when I turn right on Masters, I can see some drag racing.”

Pluebell said he is glad the north section of road could have a lower speed limit.

“That makes sense because of the single lane nature up there,” he said. “It seems like it's going in the right direction. Hopefully it'll go in sooner rather than later.”

Gaddis said 45 is a decent speed for a thoroughfare.

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