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East County Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2019 2 months ago

On the road to change in Manatee County

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Chad Butzow hopes to be more proactive about roadway needs.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

With 10 years of experience dealing with public roadways in Manatee County, Chad Butzow knows the public wants to be on time.

With the population of the county still growing quickly, that will require a lot of improvements.

Butzow, who was named Manatee County’s director of Public Works in June after serving as the acting director for one year, said he’s working to be more proactive about how the county plans for its future roadway needs.

For example, some residents of the Country Club community have asked for a traffic signal at the intersection of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Balmoral Woods Boulevard. Current traffic patterns do not trigger the need for a signal there.

But within five years, Butzow said, they probably will. He has added signalization of the intersection to the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan, which allocates money for the proposed project in fiscal year 2023.

Normally, the county would wait until then — when studies show the signal is needed — to add the improvement to its five-year work plan and then wait for it to be funded.

“We’re trying to get better at being ahead,” Butzow said. “We know it’s coming.”

Butzow said rapid growth in the greater Lakewood Ranch area is impacting Public Works, the department responsible for designing, maintaining and building county roads. New roads built mean there are more assets for which to care. Public Works needs more employees to keep up with the jobs, whether cleaning curbs, installing sidewalks, repairing pavement or other road-related items.

Butzow said the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget includes funding for about 20 new positions, with more anticipated in fiscal year 2021, just to keep up with growth occurring countywide and particularly out east.

Butzow identifies some of East County’s most heavily trafficked roadways and possible improvements.

 

FORT HAMER BRIDGE

An expansion of the Fort Hamer Bridge across the Manatee River is in the books, but it’s not a working project. The county has a design — the current two-lane bridge would evolve into two northbound lanes while a new bridge would become the two-lane southbound bridge — but there is no funding or timeline.

Butzow said the county currently is putting together a cost estimate for a second bridge, but no figures are yet available.

 

UPPER MANATEE RIVER ROAD

Butzow said transportation officials realize there is a congestion issue on Upper Manatee River Road between the entrance to Waterlefe Golf and River Club and State Road 64.

Although the county does not currently have plans to widen Upper Manatee River Road to four lanes in that area, it does have improvements coming.

Traffic signals are planned at the future Port Harbour Parkway, now under construction, and another at the entrance to the Greenfield Plantation and Copperlefe communities. Butzow said both projects should be complete within a year and help ease traffic. The signals should provide “a break” in traffic, particularly for motorists trying to enter Upper Manatee River Road from smaller side streets.

Butzow said the county also expects the opening of Port Harbour Parkway to relieve some of the traffic by diverting it westward and away from Upper Manatee’s intersection with S.R. 64.

 

LAKEWOOD RANCH
BOULEVARD

Butzow said Manatee County is keeping an eye on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, particularly between S.R. 70 and University Parkway. The section of roadway is well-traveled, and pavement conditions are deteriorating. Officials expect traffic might increase after the Lakewood Ranch Boulevard extension south to Fruitville Road opens in 2020.

To that end, the county has proposed $1.15 million in the Capital Improvement Plan to install a traffic signal at Clubhouse Drive.

The plan also anticipates installation of a signal farther south, at Balmoral Woods Boulevard, in fiscal year 2023 at a cost of about $923,000. Butzow said the intersection does not warrant signalization now, but the county expects it will by the time funding becomes available.

 

RYE ROAD

Manatee County currently is under construction on a wider, more pedestrian-friendly version of Rye Road, where contractors are adding bike lanes, a multi-use path and sidewalks along the two-lane roadway.

Manatee County will add turn lanes at its intersection with S.R. 64, where the Florida Department of Transportation is constructing the first of three modern roundabouts along that corridor, but it has no plans to widen the roadway to more than two lanes of traffic.

 

LORRAINE ROAD

Manatee County does not currently have plans to widen the rural two-lane section of Lorraine Road between state roads 64 and 70. Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch is constructing four-lane east-west extensions of both 44th Avenue East and Rangeland Parkway and north-south roadways Uihlein Road and Bourneside Boulevard.

The county has budgeted in fiscal year 2020 to signalize Lorraine Road at 44th Avenue East and at Rangeland Parkway but otherwise has no major improvements planned. Butzow said the grid system created by the development of Lakewood Ranch immediately around Lorraine Road is expected to become a preferred path for motorists.

Butzow said the county also hopes the future opening of the modern roundabout at White Eagle Boulevard/Rye Road farther west also will shift traffic away from Lorraine Road. Motorists from Rye Road will be able to continue south onto White Eagle Boulevard rather than heading east to Lorraine or west to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to travel southward as they do now.

“We hope there will be a dramatic shift in traffic patterns when the roundabout on White Eagle opens,” Butzow said. “White Eagle has never connected [to S.R. 64].”

Manatee County expects that opening might also impact the intersection of White Eagle Boulevard at State Road 70 — possibly warranting a signal there — and has informed FDOT officials of its prediction.

 

LENA ROAD

The connection of Lena Road might be in Manatee County’s long-range transportation planning maps, but the project is not in the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan. Public Works engineers are considering the future roadway as they design the extension of 44th Avenue East across I-75 to just west of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, but otherwise, not much is happening with the project.

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