$1.8M in new streetlights approved for Manatee Avenue West

myoung@bradenton.comJune 27, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Recognizing a dark stretch of Manatee Avenue West can be a hazard to drive at night, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization approved spending almost $1.8 million to pick up where a street light project ended at 59th Street West several years ago.

"It's been more than five years that this has been a discussion," said Bradenton Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo.

Gallo said a previous Florida Department of Transportation project lighting Manatee Avenue West from 34th Street West to near 59th Street West ended prematurely.

"The goal then was to begin from 34th Street West and go all the way to 75th Street West, but for some reason the project just stopped at 59th," he said. "I've had some experience with FDOT to know that they seem to run their own race and I fought for a traffic light on 48th Street East that took years. So I'm tickled to death that this is finally going to happen. It's definitely needed and I wish I had enough political pull to make the lights go all the way to the Manatee Avenue Bridge to light up the causeway because that's another safety issue."

However, Gallo said he is appreciative the project is moving forward and credited Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff, city liaison to the MPO, for pushing the project forward. Roff made the announcement Wednesday, calling it "very good news."

MPO Executive Director Michael Howe credits Bradenton persistence regarding this project.

"It's really a safety project," said Howe. "It will be a tremendous improvement for that area."

Gallo said two years ago he began a renewed push for lighting by speaking with county officials and state legislators and writing letters to the governor's office. Howe acknowledged the project resurfaced about the time Gallo began pushing.

He said FDOT now considers it a priority safety project, which allowed MPO to pursue federal funding for the street lights.

"It's basically a done deal," said Howe. "It's a very good project and illuminating that stretch of road will make it safer for pedestrians and businesses, so I think it's a critical project."

MPO Planning Manager David Hutchinson said the project was initially brought in under the transportation alternative program, which is when FDOT determined it was eligible for federal funding. It is to be funded for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Hutchinson said the project is being designed using current fiscal year funding and installation of street lights could begin any time after the new fiscal year begins. Some initial work associated with planning and design could begin as soon as July.

There is not a timetable yet for construction.

The MPO lists funded, expected-to-be-funded and unfunded projects on its transportation improvement program list.

An unfunded projects still up for discussion in the city includes replacing the Desoto Bridge light poles, which is on the "wish list priority request," according to Hutchinson

The MPO has requested $1.3 million for a roundabout project at 14th Street West and Ninth Avenue West. A total of $454,500 has been funded for project development and an environmental study, which establishes guidelines and data. Hutchinson said the project could be modified from its original concept but it's too early to make that determination.

Also on the MPO project list for the 2014-15 fiscal year for Palmetto is a project to add turn lanes at the intersection of U.S. 301 and Old Tampa Road. Almost $624,000 has been requested but remains unfunded.

MPO also projects a $3 million redevelopment of 10th Avenue West in Palmetto, which will include intersection improvements from Riverside Drive to 17th Street West. Not all funding for construction has been made available.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.

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