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Lorraine Road residents concerned over $66M improvement project

Manatee County is investing $66 million into road improvements between 59th Avenue East and State Road 64 and will need to acquire property on each side of Lorraine Road.

This is a rendering of Manatee County's proposed changes to Lorraine Road between 59th Avenue E. and State Road 64.
This is a rendering of Manatee County's proposed changes to Lorraine Road between 59th Avenue E. and State Road 64.
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Carolyn Gilbert, who is 45, was born and raised in Manatee County. She’s lived on 2 acres off Lorraine Road for 33 years.

When her parents decided to move from Samoset to the country in 1991, the then-12-year-old thought they were crazy. She said it turned out to be a huge blessing. 

“Lorraine Road was agriculture the majority of my life and is now 100% residential,” Gilbert said. “Change can be a good thing, but we no longer live in the country.”

Gilbert said she and her neighbors aren’t looking forward to the road improvements that Manatee County has planned to accommodate the area’s growth. 

The $66 million improvement project will widen the 2.83-mile segment of Lorraine Road between 59th Avenue East and State Road 64 from two lanes to four. The widening includes a raised median, sidewalks in each direction and 7-foot buffered bike lanes.

The county unveiled the plan at a public information meeting on Feb. 22 at the Florida Department of Transportation Manatee Operations Center on S.R. 64. 

Ogden Clark, the strategic affairs manager for Manatee County’s Public Works department, said the county’s two main goals are to improve the flow of traffic and to make the road safer. Clark has received numerous complaints from residents that there is no lighting on Lorraine Road. 

A traffic study showed that out of 49 reported crashes between 2016 and 2020 on that segment of the road, the one fatal crash (June 2018) involved a 34-year old male bicyclist who was riding at night.

The project will upgrade the lighting and drainage along the corridor, as well as widening the road, but Clark said some homeowners worry about losing their rural setting.

“What I can tell people is that when they’re buying homes, always look for that kind of information,” Clark said of the improvements. “It’s important to know about construction and infrastructure that’s either coming in or that needs to be repaired.”

Landscaping issues

Sean Brimberry could’ve used Clark's advice last year. He bought his home that sits on 13 acres off Lorraine Road in July. 

Brimberry likes the idea of having sidewalks on a road that was void of them, and said if he could go back, he’d buy the property again. However, had he known what he was about to lose, he would’ve reduced his purchase offer and set his newly built horse facility farther back from the road. 

Once the project is complete, the extensive landscaping and 100-year-old oak trees that provide a buffer for Brimberry’s horses and privacy for his home will be gone, and replacing the landscaping won't be as simple as pulling out a row of hedges and planting a new one.

Sean Brimberry has extensive landscaping at the front of his property that will be removed by the county to widen Lorraine Road.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

“I’ve got electrical and irrigation running all through there,” Brimberry said. “You just hope they give you enough money that you can get the right people to come do it. It’d be nice if they said, ‘Here’s a check, and here’s a contractor.’”

While he didn’t recommend a contractor, Commissioner Ray Turner said the county does pay fair market value for land acquisitions.

The county needs to acquire about 13 acres on each side of the road. Most of the properties fall under the category of “partial takes.” Out of the 87 owners due to be impacted, 29 are business owners.

There are also seven “total takes” on the list of acquisitions. Four are vacant lots, and the other three are single-family homes. Clark said the number of acquisitions is on par for what’s been needed in the past for similar projects. 

Several Lorraine Road residents were concerned they hadn't received a clear answer from the county as to how much of their land will be impacted. Gilbert was told the county would need 15 feet from the edge of the road. One person in that group, Diana Ganey, said she heard it would be 70 feet.

Part of the issue is that the design is still only 80% complete, but one of the project managers, Anthony Russo, said pretty much every owner will lose between 5-10 feet along the front of their property.

“We wanted to have a meeting a year ago, but we have lots of development going on around here,” Clark said. “Each time that happens, it changes the flood modeling, so we had to make adjustments each time.” 

Construction is expected to begin in January 2025, but that date depends on the acquisition process running smoothly. Several neighbors have been contacted by attorneys, and if they don’t like the county’s offers, and the property goes to eminent domain, they have the option to take the matter to court.

Once started, Clark said construction should take about two years. 

Ganey said a lawyer told her he can’t save her property because it falls under eminent domain, which gives the government the power to acquire private property for the benefit of the general public, but he could help her negotiate a better price. 

Turner said land acquisitions are all “part of a formula,” and if the government is taking, it’s not going to be a small number. 

Yet a major concern for residents is that if they wanted to move because of the project, they can't replace what they have somewhere else in Manatee County. 

“I’m getting ready to retire,” Ganey said. “If we end up selling and moving somewhere else, can I travel as much? No. Can I afford to do what I want to do? No.” 

New road, new problem

Among current safety concerns with this particular road segment is its lack of a shoulder, but residents are happy they can still turn left onto Lorraine Road. The improvements will require motorists who want to turn left, to make a right (because of the raised median) and then look for an intersection to make a U-turn.

“My kids are just learning to drive, and now they’re going to have to make U-turns all the time,” Ray Ganey said. “Is that really safe?”

Clark said the overall feeling he got from residents during the public meeting was that they understood the road needed to be updated, but being unable to make left-hand turns out of their driveways, and therefore forced to make a U-turn, was the No. 1 complaint. One resident asked if roundabouts were an option. 

“I’ll bring it up to the engineers just to see,” Clark said. “There are two intersection improvements planned as part of the project on Lorraine Road, at Rangeland and at 44th, there will be added turn lanes because of the widening.” 

Clark added that FDOT is planning a roundabout at S.R. 64 and Lorraine Road, but a date hasn’t been set to start construction. 



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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