Residents say new signals at a pedestrian crosswalk will slow motorists, reduce accidents.
Two years ago, Tara Preserve resident Lucy Kemp was walking her dog, Maggie, on the sidewalk along Tara Boulevard when a white car jumped the curb, popped a tire and nearly struck them.
The incident rattled her but didn’t keep her from continuing to walk almost daily along the roadway, albeit with a sense of angst.
Now, however, she said she feels a bit safer doing it.
Manatee County on Oct. 28 activated flashing lights and pedestrian crossing signs on Tara Boulevard at its intersection with Tailfeather Way, just north of where Kemp’s incident occurred.
“Somebody cared,” Kemp said.
The intersection is a two-way stop where traffic enters from Tailfeather Way and from the entrance/exit to the Cypress Strand Condominiums; it is also a school bus stop.
Tara resident Darby Connor, who had been lobbying for stop signs at the intersection for about three years, said he’s grateful for the changes. The pedestrian crossing signs and flashing signals, which pedestrians activate when ready to cross the road, warn motorists to slow down.
They also help slow traffic going into the curve immediately south of the intersection. Connor said he routinely sees drivers reach 60 mph in a stretch of road that is 30 mph, so slowing vehicles is important for improving safety.
“You can already see people slow down,” he said. “This is proof that it works. They’re stopping.”
Connor has seen accidents at the curve, including one death (2017) and one truck overturned in a pond (2010). Connor said the Tara Community Development District has spent more than $10,000 over the past decade on replanting and restoring landscaping damaged by vehicles running off the roadway.
Connor had hoped for a four-way stop on Tara Boulevard but said he is satisfied with the compromise. He had been told the intersection did not qualify for stop signs and eventually solicited the help of District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh for some sort of change.
Baugh praised the Manatee County Public Works Department and its new director, Chad Butzow, for their efforts to address residents’ concerns.
“This has been a great joint partnership between the residents and public works,” Baugh said. “This was so necessary.”
Judy Koegel, who has lived in Tara Preserve since 2002, said she already sees a difference in driver behavior and believes the new signs will help improve safety.
“We now have something where the drivers see you have to be cautious,” Koegel said. “We had a crosswalk, but it wasn’t enough. It governs behavior. It's for the common good of everyone entering Tara Boulevard.”
Connor is hopeful Tara and Manatee County can work together again to improve safety at another intersection on Tara Boulevard — at Tara Preserve Lane, where vehicles turn to go to Linger Lodge Road and Tara Elementary School.