County will try speed calming to slow down traffic on Tara Boulevard.
On their Monday morning stroll down Tara Boulevard, Darby Connor and Peyton Phillips pointed out a set of orange and white stripes on the asphalt located in front of a speed limit sign.
For Connor, the chairman of Tara Community Development District 1, the stripes signified a victory.
Connor has led the charge in asking Manatee County for help on the busy two-mile stretch of road between State Road 70 and Linger Lodge Road, hoping for ways to slow down traffic and make the road safer. Those stripes signified where one of three speed tables will be installed by the county later this month.
“I drive this road every day and I’ve seen countless accidents, and I can’t even begin to describe the amount of property damage,” Connor said. “People who aren’t necessarily residents here use this as a straight shot to S.R. 70. This isn’t their community so they don’t care.”
The first table will be installed south of the intersection of Tara Boulevard and Tara Preserve. That leads to a stretch of road, which has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour, where a fatal accident occurred in June 2020.
“Hopefully this will slow them down before they hit the curves,” Darby said. “We’ve had a lot of accidents where people have hit the curbs and went into the trees.”
Another speed table is set to be constructed just south of the intersection of Tara Boulevard and Tailfeather Way, where Darby said a truck once sped through the curve and landed in an adjacent pond. A final table will be put near a curve just south of Stand Circle.
“Thirty is not slow on this road,” Connor said. “We’re just hoping that where we plant these will have some impact.”
Phillips called the prospect of kids crossing the road to get to nearby Tara Elementary “extremely worrisome,” especially at the intersection of Tara Boulevard and Tara Preserve. In August, a speeding motorist missed a turn and plowed through a development sign at the intersection causing $16,000 in damage.
“God forbid they would hit a child,” he said. “I’ve seen accidents at the intersection where the whole front of a car is torn off. I don’t know how it can be that severe because you can’t build up a lot of speed.”
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said Monday reducing the speed limit wasn’t a viable option and stop signs were just a stop gap.
“If you lower the speed limit people aren’t going to pay attention,” Baugh said. “A stop sign works temporarily. It’s a known fact that whenever you put in stop signs — especially a four-way stop — people honor them at first and they pay attention to them. Then after awhile they get accustomed to the stop signs being there and they ignore those, too.”
Baugh said that a speed table is something that can’t be ignored.
“You have to slow down for them and they’re not giving,” she said. "They have better outcomes than speed limit signs. The county has always known that wouldn’t stop the situation, so we are going to try the speed calming and hope that has an effect.”
County documents show the speed tables will begin as temporary devices that will be in place for 90 days to allow for community feedback. Permanent speed tables would be installed within six to eight weeks after the trial period. Total cost is estimated at $24,000.
Connor said he will continue to lobby for a four-way stop at Tara Boulevard and Tara Preserve, saying the yellow lighted crosswalk signs and speed tables aren’t enough yet. He feels that four-way stops work and “that he’s never seen anyone run a four-way stop.” It currently has stop signs on east and west directions from Tara preserve.
“These signs concern me because they’re yellow and that means caution,” Connor said. “People accelerate when they see the yellow instead of slowing. You’re asking a grade school child to decide whether to push that button with a yellow caution light to get to school. People drive their kids to school because they’re scared to let them go through that intersection.”
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