S.R. 64 stretch timed for fewer stops

mjohnson@bradenton.comMay 1, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Six traffic signals installed along a newly widened section of State Road 64 East will use updated timing, cameras and sensors to determine how traffic will flow along the six-lane arterial.

Under the best conditions, commuters will be able to drive between Interstate 75 and Carlton Arms Boulevard without having to stop for a single red light.

Better Roads Inc. of Naples, contractor in charge of the $13.4 million road-widening project, is adjusting sensing equipment on each light this week. The new equipment will move traffic with the fewest and shortest stops as it feeds in from downtown Bradenton to the west and from East Manatee, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

Robert Gosling, a retired Manatee High School teacher who drives S.R. 64 nearly every day, said he hopes the new lights do a better job once fully operational. During the two years of construction and for years prior, he's been stopped by red lights at nearly every intersection, he said.

"That's the reason there were so many backups during the construction," he said. "It's been like this for 10 years."

Officials with the Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County say the new lights will speed S.R. 64 traffic and better serve traffic on side streets and in turn lanes.

Trudy Gerena, a spokeswoman who liaisons between Better Roads and the Florida Department of Transportation, said the sensing system will be able to determine whether traffic on S.R. 64 or on crossroads needs a green light depending on traffic volumes and wait times.

It's a more effective sys

tem than simply timing lights to turn green or red on a particular schedule, Gerena said.

"That makes traffic flow much better," she said.

Robin Stublen, FDOT spokesman, said the lights will adjust for interruptions caused by pedestrians using crossings and non-typical traffic volumes.

Stublen acknowledged lights in the construction zone have not functioned ideally during construction. At one point, an FDOT crew was dispatched to deal with a turn signal that allowed traffic to flow for just three seconds.

He said he doesn't expect anything like that to happen once the lights are under FDOT control. Under the right conditions, the 2.5-mile stretch of road will allow traffic to flow without restrictions.

"When it's completed, someone should be able to hit a green light and drive all the way through this new section," Stublen said.

Stublen said the timing will allow this to happen when traffic is travelling at the 45-mph speed limit.

Manatee County will also have access to the lights through its automated traffic operations system once construction is complete on S.R. 64, said Manatee County spokesman Nicholas Azzara.

That could be several weeks away as construction crews finish turn lanes and other small projects outside the six travel lanes.

County access will usually only be needed for changing light timing in the event of some sort of unusual incident on the road, such as an auto accident.

Sage Kamiya, director of the county traffic management system, said the county traffic center will also watch traffic through a live feed provided by cameras mounted on new signal poles.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

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