BRADENTON -- If there was a way to document the most used, one-word explanation for someone running late to an appointment on either side of the Manatee River across the Green Bridge, it likely would be:
It's not a new dilemma for motorists streaming through downtown Bradenton to Palmetto over the bridge, and it's the same issue driving into Bradenton from the other side of the river. This year, however, traffic appears heavier, and it's no longer just peak commute hours that motorists battle congestion.
City officials on both sides of the river have taken their woes to the Florida Department of Transportation.
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said FDOT is studying whether congestion could be eased by adjusting traffic-signal timing.
"They are making presentations to the affected entities," Bryant said.
One such presentation was made Wednesday to the Bradenton City Council. Any hope for a simple fix by adjusting traffic lights quickly turned red.
"Trying to adjust the timing made things worse," said L.K. Nandam, FDOT District One traffic operations engineer. "First, we looked at the background and made some observations. What we found is that this year there have been more backups than what we've seen during previous years."
Nandam's confirmation of what every-day commuters already know includes seeing the daily traffic slowdowns on the crown of the Green Bridge, which is not uncommon during peak season. He also confirmed that congestion stretching back into both cities is lasting longer than normal.
FDOT tried to make some traffic signal timing adjustments at the intersection of Manatee Avenue and Ninth Street West. It's a key traffic-controlling location, Nandam said.
"If we take one second away from Manatee Avenue to Ninth Street, traffic increases on Manatee," said Nandam. "Any changes we tried the other way made it worse on Ninth Street."
Easing traffic while maintaining the existing thru lanes isn't going to happen quickly, Nandam said. On average, 700 vehicles travel every hour through Ninth Street West between Manatee Avenue and Third Avenue West, to and from the Green Bridge. That's only an average based on overall FDOT traffic counts, and does not take into account peak hours, he said.
Nandam said the study showed that a significant number of vehicles entering Bradenton from Palmetto make right-hand turns at intersections absent of turn lanes within the bridge traffic zone.
He said the southbound intersections of Third Avenue West and Manatee Avenue on Ninth Street West, in particular, had a lot of right-hand turn activity. Part of the solution, he said, is to create turn lanes at those intersections to allow turning vehicles to exit out of the thru lanes.
How to accomplish that in a downtown area isn't easy. But Nandam said FDOT does have a preliminary design concept, and it could tie into a project already planned for the 2017-18 fiscal year in the same area.
Reducing the thru lanes to 10 feet wide and partially removing some of the medians could create enough space for the proposed turn lanes, while maintaining all existing lanes, he said.
FDOT typically projects work well into the future to take into account both planning and funding issues. Nandam said the estimated cost would be about $600,000, but would include redoing much of the asphalt on Ninth Street West in the downtown area.
Nandam said it would take about a year to design and find funding for the proposal, so the best option is to tie it into the existing project.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or firstname.lastname@example.org