Mannix About Manatee: Adjusting traffic light network one solution to Green Bridge woes

February 9, 2014 

If there's anybody out there who enjoys driving to work, please raise your hand.

Can't be many.

Especially if they're traveling south over the Green Bridge every day to their jobs in Bradenton and points elsewhere.

Sounds like a lot of unhappy motorists -- and constituents -- are stuck making that trip, according to the Palmetto City Commission.

That august body agreed last Monday to find out why their side of the span across the Manatee River is backed up every workday morning.

Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant wants to let the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization know about it, too.

Well, it turns out they already do.

Matter of fact, according to MPO transportation planner Mike Maholtz, state and local traffic engineers are already working on it.

The plan, he said, is to improve the timing and sequencing of light cycles within the network of traffic lights on both sides of each bridge and their feeder roads.

They'll start it up in the next two to three weeks.

There are no long-range plans, he said, for widening the four-lane Green Bridge. Just maintenance and improvement to pedestrian and bicyclist pathways in the next 12-18 months.

There are no plans at all for upgrading the DeSoto Bridge.

So the short-term answer is going to have to be adjusting those traffic lights.

"The whole system needs to be timed and sequenced properly," Maholtz said. "Drivers ought to see some remedy soon."

Let's hope so.

This bridge traffic issue is more than the familiar kvetching by the Palmetto mayor and city commission.

Anybody with eyes can see they've had a real problem.

That it's season exacerbates it, certainly, but this dilemma seems to persist whether it's January or July.

Many days when I was on the way to the office at the Herald's old building, I'd see that southbound traffic backed up on the DeSoto Bridge and shudder.

Ditto for the Green Bridge, now that we've moved downtown.

It's not only during morning and evening rush hours, either.

There have been times I've gotten caught in the same traffic jam returning from lunch at Popi's Place Too in Palmetto.

So I feel for those drivers, who have to drive it daily.

The only inconvenience I encounter coming up from South County is the occasional Tropicana train moving slowly across the tracks where U.S. 301 merges with First Street.

Which is why oftentimes I'll take 15th Street East to avoid the train altogether.

Motorists heading south on the Green Bridge -- or DeSoto Bridge -- don't have that choice.

Mike Maholtz understands the dilemma not only on a professional level, but on a personal one, as well.

He lives in Ellenton.

"My wife has to go that way every day," he said.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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