Traffic analysis performed as part of diverging diamond agreement..
When Market Street in Lakewood Ranch was built, a half-circle design was incorporated just north of Exchange Way to slow traffic as vehicles approached the many stores and restaurants meant to occupy that area.
Perhaps that design worked too well.
Manatee County transportation officials are exploring a design change — eliminating that half-circle and taking the street straight through — they hope will improve traffic flow in the area.
The proposed change is a side effect of an analysis the county has been conducting of the Market Street-University Parkway intersection. That analysis had been required by an agreement the county made with the Florida Department of Transportation in 2014 to speed up funding for the diverging diamond interchange.
FDOT agreed to move the diverging diamond forward if Manatee and Sarasota counties would monitor traffic conditions at University Parkway’s intersections with Cooper Creek Boulevard/Cattlemen Road and at Market Street and make improvements
when deemed necessary.
FDOT officials wanted to make sure those intersections did not hinder performance of the diverging diamond.
The analysis shows the Market Street and University Parkway intersection is performing well, according to Manatee County transportation officials, for the present.
However, Manatee County Public Works Director Chad Butzow said a traffic analysis by consultant HDR Inc. shows the modification to Market Street could help reduce stacking in the dual turn lanes for vehicles exiting Market Street onto University Parkway and for northbound vehicles on University Parkway turning onto Market Street.
The half-circle design is bordered by the Publix shopping center to the west, Walgreens to the north and another shopping plaza to the east.
“We have a proposal that makes Market Street a normal street straight through there,” Butzow said. “We would signalize (the intersection of) Market and Town Center Parkway.”
Manatee County had budgeted about $5 million in its Capital Improvement Program for the study of the Market Street and University Parkway interchange and potential improvements.
“Those concerns, while valid, are based off traffic projections out in 2030 or 2035,” Butzow said. “They’re not immediate … there’s not a specific timing commitment here. We’ve got to continue to monitor it.”
Butzow said when HDR’s study deemed the Market Street-University Parkway intersection was performing OK, HDR evaluated other projects that could improve traffic flow in the area.
“This is a big picture project that isn’t as disruptive as a lot of work on University Parkway would be,” Butzow said. “With a good reception and land issues removed, the project could proceed to design.”
Butzow said the proposed change is not one being clamored for by the public, but it is one that makes sense to help improve traffic flow, if the idea goes forward. He said Manatee County already is working with landowner Schroeder-Manatee Ranch about the idea and also will be coordinating with three other impacted property owners.
Butzow said the project is in its conceptual stage and still must go through formal design and land acquisition. He estimated the project could take up to 24 months, with about six months for construction.
“If you have friendly land deals, things tend to go faster,” he said.
Butzow said Manatee County has more than $3 million remaining available for the project and he expects the Market Street project would only cost about $1 million.
Other projects in Sarasota County, such as the extensions of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Lorraine Road to Fruitville Road, were promised and either are complete, are under construction or in the planning process.