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East County Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 1 year ago

More roundabouts considered on East County roads

Traffic circles could be added to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Honore Avenue.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

When Eric Fox first moved to Carmel, Ind., from Chicago in 2003, he thought roundabouts were “the worst things in the world.”

But as time passed, he became a fan.

He moved to Lakewood Ranch in May. Now, he sort of misses them.

“If you do it right, it’s really great,” Fox said of roundabouts. “You get in your spot and you drive through. Here, I spend more time waiting at traffic lights than I do anything else.”

Roundabouts are not commonplace in Manatee County, but the Manatee County Commission is taking a look at using them for improving safety and traffic flow at some intersections. During a workshop Oct. 16, the board talked about installing roundabouts on Honore Avenue at Cooper Creek Boulevard and at Old Farm Road, and on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard at Clubhouse Drive, Balmoral Woods Boulevard and Water Crest Way.

Through its infrastructure sales tax revenue, Manatee County has $576,000 budgeted in its Capital Improvement Plan for a traffic signal at Honore and Cooper Creek, but the transportation staff estimates a roundabout there could cost more than $2 million.

None of the other projects are in the county’s five-year work program or are funded.

“Your standard intersection has 32 conflict points,”  Manatee County Public Works Deputy Director Sage Kamiya said. “In a roundabout, that number goes down to eight. It decreases the risk of crashes and increases safety.”

The disadvantage to roundabouts, he said, is generally they take up more space and are difficult to change.

Of the roundabouts proposed, the one at Cooper Creek and Honore Avenue would have the least land needed to be purchased for right of way, while the others might have conflicts with lift stations or bridges, according to preliminary sketches. Manatee County would have to find funding to pursue the idea further.

District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said both Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Honore Avenue are problematic, and the problems will grow as the area develops.

Related to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Baugh said, “There is going to be a need. That’s the bottom line. Whether or not it’s a roundabout is the question. More people are moving to that area. We do need to look at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and make a decision on steps we’re going to take in the future. If we don’t, we’re missing the boat. We’re going to have the same problem we have in the rest of the county.”

Commissioner Betsy Benac said she likes the idea of the roundabout at Honore and Old Farm Road, which she called a “choke point” for traffic.

From a planning perspective, roundabouts can create open space and provide aesthetic improvement to areas, she said.

“They seem much less intrusive than a large intersection,” Benac said.

Although the workshop was focused on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Honore Avenue, commissioners said there are plenty of other areas in the county with equal or greater transportation improvement needs.

The Public Works Department has identified more than $1 billion in needed roadway maintenance and improvement projects, although that project list has been whittled down to make it more palatable. Commissioners said they want to spend an entire day talking about transportation issues and work toward developing a 15-year work program for road projects. Those items will be discussed at future meetings.

Commissioners suggested the county consider incorporating roundabouts as a preferred design for new neighborhoods proposed in the county and also try to find a way to make roundabout designs smaller to reduce land costs.

Baugh said it may be time to put more money into infrastructure.

“We’ve got to rethink what we’re doing,” Baugh said.

If commissioners decide to pursue roundabouts on Honore Avenue or Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, they’ll have to find funding for engineering and design.

Some residents in neighborhoods off both Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Honore Avenue offered differing opinions about the effectiveness of roundabouts, but said it’s good there is more discussion on the issue.

Mote Ranch’s Steve Bolander said county officials should consider other solutions, such as limiting tractor-trailer traffic from using Honore Avenue or making sure there are safe crosswalks. Overall, he is pleased.

“I think it’s encouraging the commissioners have listened to the complaints from people who live along both of those roadways and they are looking for ideas to calm traffic,” he said.

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