City officials on Wednesday approved two joint partnership agreements with the Florida Department of Transportation that open the door for two long-awaited projects to move forward.
The projects include a roundabout at the intersection of 15th Street East and Ninth Avenue East and a downtown pedestrian safety project along Eighth Avenue West from Ninth Street West to 14th Street West.
The 15th Street East roundabout project first arose in early 2015, which were followed by public meetings over the summer. Those public meetings led FDOT to choose a roundabout in October rather than adding a turn lane and a new traffic signal.
The estimated cost of $1.7 million includes about $1 million for the roundabout and infrastructure improvements. About $700,000 was needed for land acquisitions. Jim McLellan, public works director, said FDOT has downsized the original design to keep the project within budget. Robin Stublen, FDOT communications specialist cautioned that the acquiring of land would be time consuming, but he said everything was in order and the project is on schedule to begin construction in the spring of 2018.
The MLK and 15th Street East project is separate from a larger 4.5 mile complete overhaul of 15th Street East, a project estimated to cost between $70-$90 million for major improvements largely through the Oneco business district. That work is part of a joint FDOT and Manatee County project.
The intersection is a problem area for traffic traveling west on MLK and wanting to turn south onto 15th. With no turn lane on the one-lane road, traffic wanting to continue west bogs down behind vehicles wanting to turn south, as sometimes heavy traffic travels east.
Pedestrian safety project
The pedestrian safety project involves new center medians with pedestrian refuge islands, stormwater improvements, streetscape elements and a new water main line. FDOT conducted public meetings on the project this past summer.
The city will pay $550,000 out of its stormwater budget to replace a 1940s era water main. FDOT is providing $601,659 toward the primary goal of improving pedestrian safety.
The city, as well as FDOT top officials rejected the initial design, which called for fences to force pedestrians to selected new crosswalks. Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley said the early designs were great for traffic flow, but did not necessarily address city goals.
Hartley said she has seen an upgraded draft of the new design, “but we have not received a formalized site plan.”
The proposal also calls for reducing Eighth Avenue West to 11 feet wide through lanes to provide additional turn lanes at each intersection in the project area. McLellan said the project could still be a year or two or away from actual construction.