- April 1, 2015
EAST COUNTY — Less congestion and slower speeds may not seem like traffic scenarios that work together.
But the Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County Public Works department are mulling two East County roundabouts for State Road 64 that would slow drivers without causing a traffic jam.
After receiving a few phone calls from concerned residents, the county is deciding what to do about the intersection of Rye Road and State Road 64. It conducted a study to determine if a traffic light and/or a right-turn lane would address callers’ concerns about high speeds, congestion and the difficulty of turning from the two intersections onto the busy roadway.
According to the federal guidelines for traffic-control devices, the number of vehicles traveling on the roads per day — about 14,000 on State Road 64 and 3,000 on Rye Road — warrants action, whether a traffic light or other device, said Sage Kamiya, deputy director of traffic management for the Public Works department.
During its research over the last few months, FDOT also added the Lorraine Road intersection to its radar. FDOT officials, though, don’t think traffic lights will help the intersection’s traffic issues.
Now, Public Works and FDOT are discussing the possibility of creating roundabouts at the intersections, along with a right-turn lane at the Rye Road intersection. Roundabouts will help alleviate congestion, speeding and unsafe crossing of State Road 64, officials say.
Timelines and prices have not been discussed because the projects are still in preliminary discussion stages.
“Whenever we are considering traffic signals, we’re also considering roundabouts,” said Robin Stublen, communications specialist for FDOT. “Those should be considered at the same time. If an area doesn’t warrant a traffic signal, not always, but often, roundabouts will work. They are not the cure-all, fix-all, but they reduce accidents and slow people down.”
County Public Works Department Director Ron Schulhofer is waiting for FDOT to finish its evaluation of both areas before making a decision. He expects to review the results and for the groups to possibly make a decision by early 2015.
“I’m waiting to see FDOT’s report before making a decision,” Schulhofer said. “But the roundabouts on 75th Street and 53rd Avenue West work wonderfully. I’m with them on this, and I’m looking forward to what the report says. We just have to see if they are feasible.”
Currently, neither intersection features a traffic signal or turn lane to cross through State Road 64. Rather, each has four lanes divided by an open turning area space located in between two medians.
To Stublen, a roundabout will not only slow drivers as they enter the roundabout, but it also offers other safety and convenience benefits as well.
“The nonstop flow of traffic will help the traffic situation in both areas,” Stublen said. “There will also be a drastic reduction in side-impact crashes. On Rye Road right now, that left-hand turn can be dangerous. With the roundabout, people will be coming in about 20 mph don’t have to stop and can continue to go. People just merge right into it. If there’s an accident, it’s at a much slower speed, making it less severe.”
For Mills Creek resident Toni Gilray, the lack of a turn signal or project to direct the flow of traffic at the Rye Road intersection poses safety concerns for her and her family.
Gilray, who has a 17-year-old son who travels to and from school on State Road 64, thinks a roundabout would force slower speeds and is an easier way to turn left out of their neighborhood and onto State Road 64.
She said the idea is intriguing, she just can’t visualize it, yet, because she is used to the intersection as it is today.
But Gilray notices people speeding down the busy roadway, especially between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and after work in the evening.
“It’s dangerous, people are going fast,” Gilray said. “I love the idea of slowing people down. That area needs something.”