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Manatee County to consider $150K contribution for Broadway roundabout design

Design work is underway for a roundabout at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street.

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  • | 11:27 p.m. December 13, 2021
  • Longboat Key
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Crossing Gulf of Mexico Drive from Broadway Street on the north end of Longboat Key can be tricky under the best conditions. 

The curving section of thoroughfare doesn't offer sightlines long enough to cross leisurely, a condition often complicated when drivers are exceeding the 35 mph speed limit and pedestrians are carrying beach gear or looking out for others who might not move as quickly. 

For drivers heading south from Broadway, the problem is much the same.

A crosswalk signal stands a few hundred yards north of the intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street.
A crosswalk signal stands a few hundred yards north of the intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street.

On the west side of the highway is a popular public beach. To the east, popular destinations such as Whitney's, The Shore, MarVista Dockside and the Whitney Beach shopping plaza. 

A signalized crosswalk exists a few hundred yards north, between Broadway and North Shore Road, but that feature isn't always apparent to those unfamiliar with their surroundings.  

It’s why the town has emphasized the importance of adding a roundabout at GMD and Broadway, landing among the town’s top four priorities to the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. 

“It is our busiest pedestrian crosswalk on the Key,” District 5 Commissioner Maureen Merrigan said. “It serves a huge neighborhood, three restaurants (and) a very busy beach access.”

The town’s other priorities include adding a left-turn lane to the Country Club Shores neighborhood and to the north entrance of Longboat Club Road, adding a Longboat Club Round roundabout at Gulf of Mexico Drive and upgrading the multi-use path on the east side of Gulf of Mexico Drive.

In January, the Manatee County Commission plans to consider contributing $150,000 for the design of the Broadway roundabout project. If Manatee County commissioners vote against the measure, the town would have to pay for the entire cost.

“We’re advancing the design,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “We’ve hired a consultant. Their fee is going to be approximately $300,000 and that’s to design the project so we can then seek funding for construction.”

Merrigan said it's only fair to seek help from Manatee.

“This is an area that’s used by Manatee County residents,” Merrigan said. “We pay our taxes in Manatee County, we live in Manatee County and that’s a safety issue for us in Manatee County.”

Harmer explained what it means with design work starting in October on the Broadway roundabout.

“Clearly identifying the location, the right-of-way and the private property and the drainage issue because the survey data will then be pulled into their design files, so then they lay out the most practical design for the roundabout to work,” Harmer said. “There are certain standards that they have to meet with the roadway and if there’s pedestrian crossings and landscaping.”

Preliminary sketches of the proposed circle include crosswalks on all four sides and slim medians funneling traffic into the circles from both side of Broadway and Gulf of Mexico Drive. 

Whitney’s co-owner James Brearley said he sees people cross GMD every day from his establishment at 6990 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

“As someone who has crossed from Whitney’s to go to the beach and as someone who’s watched peopled in the neighborhood do the same, I think it would definitely be a benefit to the north end,” Brearley said of Broadway roundabout. “But, at the same time, we defer to the will of the community.”

Brearley said he didn’t think adding a roundabout would have an impact on Whitney’s from a business standpoint.

As a north end resident, Merrigan explained what she’s seen, experienced and heard from residents.

“It’s treacherous to go across,” Merrigan said. “It’s on a curve…(drivers) are going fast.”

Around 9,700 vehicles pass the Broadway Street and GMD intersection in both directions on a daily basis. In 2014, state highway officials said such a traffic-calming feature on the north end could serve to aid not only drivers but also pedestrians crossing GMD in a spot not conducive to a crosswalk.  

The crosswalk at the north end of the town is one of six that operate with the push of a button, but traffic engineers often point to pedestrians often ignoring such facilities and crossing on their own as a factor in pedestrian accidents. Town officials and others have also complained for years that the yellow blinking lights accompanying those crosswalks and not urgent enough to signal drivers to stop. 

The Florida Department of Transportation is planning on a pilot project to bring two new styles of crosswalk signals to GMD in the next two years.

The state wants to monitor before and after peak-season results by:

  • Adding in-roadway lighting at GMD and Longboat Club Road near the Country Club Shores IV North entrance. FDOT said it would cost about $76,800 for construction, which could start this fiscal year.
  • Replacing an existing rectangular rapid flashing beacon with a new pedestrian hybrid beacon at GMD at Bayfront Park. FDOT said it would cost about $352,500 for construction, which could start in fiscal year 2023.


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