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East County Wednesday, Apr. 14, 2021 7 months ago

Pope Road construction underway

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Turn lanes at the intersection of Pope Road and White Eagle Boulevard intended to prevent traffic backup.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Like many parts of Lakewood Ranch, Pope Road was once a rural street.

Those days are gone.

“We've developed past that capacity,” said Roger Aman, a project manager for Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, about Pope Road.

Improvements are underway at the intersection of Pope Road and White Eagle Boulevard and include an eastbound left-turn lane from White Eagle Boulevard to Pope Road, a longer westbound right-turn lane from White Eagle Boulevard to Pope Road and southbound left- and right-turn lanes from Pope Road to White Eagle Boulevard.

Aman said the turn lanes will prevent backup on White Eagles Boulevard from drivers seeking an alternate route to S.R. 64, which will be especially important when a planned apartment complex makes its way to the intersection.

“These improvements are greatly needed, especially with the roundabout out there on S.R. 64,” Aman said, referencing a future roundabout at the intersection of S.R. 64, Pope Road and Greyhawk Boulevard. “A lot of people will be taking that shortcut.”

The project is scheduled to be “substantially complete” by November, according to Aman. SMR contracted with Sarasota-based Frederick Derr & Company for construction.

A quarter-mile stretch of Pope Road from White Eagle Boulevard to State Road 64 is under construction. The addition of turn lanes at the intersection of Pope Road and White Eagle Boulevard could prevent traffic backup.

Manatee County commissioners approved a transportation impact fee credit April 6 to help fund the project overseen by the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District, after county staff decided the additions can be considered “capacity-adding improvements to the thoroughfare roadway system.” The estimated cost for credit-eligible construction is $272,855.55, though the impact fee credit could be as much as $315,000 after adding 15% for contingencies.

The intersection improvements are part of a larger project to improve Pope Road from White Eagle Boulevard to State Road 64, a quarter-mile to the north. The most notable change will be the roundabout at the intersection of S.R. 64, Pope Road and Greyhawk Boulevard, construction of which is underway.

The roundabout’s estimated completion date is late August, and its estimated cost is $4.78 million. There were 13 crashes at the intersection in 2017 alone.

“The Pope Road intersection was very dangerous,” Aman said. “This cleans all that up.”

Seen across White Eagle Boulevard, construction on improvements to Pope Road is underway. Construction is focused on a quarter-mile stretch of Pope Road from White Eagle Boulevard to State Road 64.

Slip lanes will be added on both sides to make the intersection smoother for people turning onto or off of Pope Road from or onto S.R. 64.

“It gives great access to the area,” Aman said. “I drove that area yesterday (to get to) White Eagle. The slip lanes are very helpful for the roundabouts. It just peels that section of traffic off. You don't have to go into the full roundabout to make a right.”

Other improvements are related to a future Publix, which will be located at the southeastern corner of the intersection with S.R. 64. The Publix will be roughly 38,400 square feet. Publix-related construction will include a median on the northern end of Pope Road and an access road into the parking lot, which is available to drivers turning right off northbound Pope Road.

Aman said Publix is paying construction on the northern end of Pope Road, such as the median and access road. Publix has contracted North American Properties, which also constructed the Publix at University Parkway and Lorraine Road, to do the work.

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Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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