County executives, commissioners believe land for road projects needs to be purchased sooner.
Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea has tentatively allocated $500,000 in the 2021 fiscal year budget for buying land needed for future roadway projects, but she said that figure needs to be greater.
During a pre-budget workshop Feb. 18, commissioners agreed with Coryea and said they hope securing right of way earlier in the process can help Manatee County mitigate some of its traffic woes.
Chairwoman Betsy Benac said proactive acquisition on roadways like Lorraine Road could be beneficial. Although widening Lorraine Road between state roads 70 and 64 is not in the county’s current five-year improvement plan, county officials know the project will need to be done.
She said the county could talk with landowners along Lorraine Road to learn more about their future development plans and talk about opportunities to acquire needed land as soon as possible.
District 1 Commissioner Priscilla Trace said the county should begin prioritizing such projects. She said friendly acquisition of right of ways along a future project would be beneficial to the county and the land owners.
District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh agreed about the need for acquiring more right of way and said the county needs to find additional solutions, such as requiring developers to take care of roads in front of their projects.
“We can’t continue to do things the same way we’ve always done them,” Baugh said.
Baugh said she would like to see recommendations from the Manatee County Public Works Department about roadway projects, such as roundabouts, traffic lights or traffic calming, that could improve traffic flow without significant cost.
“We can’t build enough roads to keep up with congestion,” Baugh said. “We need to start looking at other modes of transportation.”
Commissioner Misty Servia said when she worked for the county in 1994, there was a van pool program in which she participated. A county employee would use a van to pick up a group of other employees on the way to work.
At one point, she also used “flexible” hours to work from home and care for her child in the afternoons. She suggested the county relaunch such programs and encourage other employers including the School District of Manatee County to incentivize employees to be off the roads during peak hours.
Coryea’s suggestions should be presented to commissioners May 28.
The fiscal year 2021 budget runs Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021. The fiscal year 2021 budget process will run through this summer with a final budget adoption in the fall.