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East County Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2019 2 months ago

S.R. 64 roundabout project may speed up in Manatee County

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County-state partnership could speed up longterm safety improvement at Pope Road-GreyHawk Boulevard.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Manatee County and the Florida Department of Transportation are working together to move up construction of a roundabout at the intersection of State Road 64 and GreyHawk Boulevard/Pope Road.

Although the project was scheduled in FDOT’s work program for 2024, construction now may begin as early as summer 2020.

“The need (for this project) outpaced funding,” said Chad Butzow, interim director of Public Works for Manatee County. “Current conditions are such that the residents, the citizens expect a faster improvement. We have the ability and the desire to move it up to

get it done sooner.”

Butzow said Manatee County may front the estimated $3 million for the project using reserves or some sort of inter-fund loan. It would be repaid by the state in fiscal year 2024, when FDOT has money allocated for the project.

Manatee County commissioners must still approve the agreement with FDOT and/or add the project to the county’s Capital Improvement Program as part of the fiscal year 2019 budget process, which is now in its preliminary stages.

Butzow said commissioners are apprised of the change and he does not anticipate any problems. However, the county commission has the ultimate say as to whether the county expedites the roundabout project.

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she supports the new plan.

“The sooner the better,” Baugh said of having the roundabout in place. “I think it’s fantastic (we’re working with FDOT). That’s what partnership is about.”

FDOT on Oct. 16, 2018, began construction of the roundabout at Rye Road/White Eagle Boulevard. It is the first of three proposed roundabouts — one each at Lorraine Road/145th Street East, Rye Road/145th Street East and GreyHawk Boulevard/Pope Road — along a 1.3-mile stretch of State Road 64.

At Pope Road/GreyHawk Boulevard, FDOT has made interim improvements to enhance safety following a public outcry. In October 2018 it temporarily closed the left turn lane onto Pope Road from State Road 64 after previously modifying the median opening at that intersection. This month, FDOT will hold a hearing about making the left-turn restriction permanent until roundabout construction begins.

At Lorraine Road and 145th Street East, where the third roundabout will go, FDOT already has installed a traffic signal as the roundabout project awaits funding in fiscal year 2024.

The roundabouts being designed will have speeds slowed to about 25 mph, transportation officials said.

The intersection of GreyHawk Landing/Pope Road at S.R. 64 has been a concern for neighboring residents for several years, but gained even more attention following several severe traffic accidents there, including one that killed two Lakewood Ranch High teenagers in September 2018.

In October 2018, Manatee County commissioners and the Manatee County School Board both formally lobbied the state for a temporary signal at the intersection of S.R. 64 and Pope Road/GreyHawk Boulevard, as well as to expedite construction of the roundabout there.

FDOT spokesman Brian Rick said the state works with local governments regularly for such ventures and the Pope Road roundabout currently is being designed by consultant Patel, Greene and Associates.

He said engineering should be finished by the end of December 2019.

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