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Greenbrook Boulevard school zone to extend to Lorraine Road

The corner of Lorraine Road and Greenbrook Boulevard is a school zone currently.
The corner of Lorraine Road and Greenbrook Boulevard is a school zone currently.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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An anomaly exists on Greenbrook Boulevard where parents enter the car line for Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School and R. Dan Nolan Middle School.

While that stretch of road is directly in front of the two schools, it is not designated as a school zone. 

The corner of Greenbrook Boulevard and Lorraine Road is a school zone, but when turning east on Greenbrook Boulevard, drivers are immediately met with “End School Zone” sign. On Greenbrook Boulevard, the school zone picks up again in front of Greenbrook Park. 

By the start of the next school year, Manatee County has designated the entire stretch between Lorraine Road and Greenbrook Park to be a school zone with a posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour when the lights are flashing. 

The new school zone on Greenbrook Boulevard will connect the two existing school zones. While not marked on the county's map, the corner of Greenbrook Blvd. and Lorraine Road is a school zone now.
Courtesy image

Parents say the speed limit is a good start, but they’ve also requested that the county make the intersection of Greenbrook Boulevard and Ladyfish Trail, where the car lines forms, a four-way stop.

“We have cars that are speeding from Lorraine and from Premier Sports Campus to cut through," Jaime Marco said. "It’s a cut-through so they’re going way faster.” 

Marco is the chair of the School Advisory Council for McNeal, which initiated the action to extend the school zone. While the group asked for the stop signs, too, the county is only moving ahead with the 15 mph speed limit signs for now.

“The traffic count that Public Works did there didn’t quite warrant stop signs,” Commissioner Ray Turner said. “We all agree that (extending the school zone) might help out quite a bit. If it doesn’t work, I will not hesitate to press for the stop signs.” 

In practice

Elena Vergnais, a Preserve resident said not having a school zone in front of two schools is "insane." 

For the most part, only cars enter and exit the school through that lane. Students walking or riding their bikes usually enter and exit the schools through Greenbrook Park. That’s where crossing guard Sharon Danna is stationed on Greenbrook Boulevard. 

McNeal opened in 2003, and Nolan opened in 2004. Lakewood Ranch was an entirely different landscape back then. There wouldn’t have been over 2,300 cars on the road during a school week as currently measured by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. 

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has had a speed sign posted in the area over the past several weeks. From April 29 through May 3, the sign clocked 147 out of 2,349 cars speeding, 33 of which were exceeding 40 mph. The high speed for the week was 47 mph at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. 

“That’s a good sampling of what we see,” said Randy Warren, who is the public information officer for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. “But most people slow down when they see our (speed signs) in the area.”

Twenty years since the schools’ opened, the car line now sits opposite of the entrance to The Preserve in Greenbrook, so there’s more traffic on the road.

Sharon Danna is the crossing guard stationed at Greenbrook Park. The other crossing guards are stationed at the corner of Greenbrook Boulevard and Lorraine Road. The new school zone will cover the entire stretch of Greenbrook Boulevard from the park to the intersection at Lorraine.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Currently at Greenbrook Boulevard and Ladyfish Trail, the traffic can be so bad at the drop off time that the drivers have to put down their windows to wave at each other in an attempt to direct traffic.

“We rely on each other’s kindness,” Vergnais said. “People start waving to each other because there is no other way.”

Vergnais said she doesn’t even try to get out of the neighborhood using that exit in the morning because she has to sit so long trying to make a left hand turn. On the rare occasions she does go that way, she usually ends up turning right and makes a U-turn. 

But that’s only an inconvenience. Her concern is for the safety of students and parents who are walking and riding bikes.

Vergnais’ two daughters were in a minivan that was T-boned in December after a driver blew through a stop sign out onto Greenbrook Boulevard. Another mom was driving the minivan, and there were four children in the car. The passengers suffered bruises and minor injuries. All are recovered now, but Vergnais said it was traumatic for everyone. 

“I’m hoping to get a (four-way stop), but even stop signs don’t guarantee that the driver will respect it,” Vergnais said. 

Neighbors have bounced around other ideas, too. They have talked about speed tables or a red light that only operates during school hours, but they recognize that those are more expensive options that the county would be less responsive to installing. Stop signs are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. They also don’t require maintenance. 

As far as getting stop signs installed, the county relies on traffic counts to determine if they’re warranted or not. Marco said common sense needs to override a traffic count in this case. 

“I do know is that if you just sit here, you will see cars speeding,” Marco said. 

Turner agreed that common sense can overrule a traffic count. 

“If we’ve got a problem, obviously common sense then overrides everything,” he said. “If we’ve got a legitimate safety concern, then I’ll press it. And I won’t get resistance. When it comes to safety, the board takes that very seriously.”



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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