When in season, as many as 50 trucks every day filled with vegetables leave Falkner Farms in Myakka City. Located off State Road 64, many head west into town.
But a roundabout that will be built on State Road 64 at Rye Road, which is 14 miles west of Falkner Farms, has John Falkner concerned.
“It is very dangerous, very inefficient,” the owner of Falkner Farms said. “It is a very big concern. This is a big cross path for trucks.”
Falkner is not alone as other East Manatee farming operations have concerns with the roundabout being constructed.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Tom O’Brien, president of C & D Fruit and Vegetable Company. “It’s not a good idea because of all the truck traffic here.”
More than 3,500 trucks travel the Rye Road intersection per day, with 1,543 trucks traveling on the east side of Rye Road and 1,960 trucks per day on the west side, according to Florida Department of Transportation.
O’Brien grew up in the farming area of New Jersey where they used to have roundabouts.
“They aren’t there anymore,” he said.
Falkner is hoping FDOT will reconsider the decision to proceed with the roundabout instead of a traffic signal.
“Now, a stop light everybody knows,” he said. “A stop light is necessary. It just needs a stop light. Just put a stop light in, that’s what you got to do.”
O’Brien agrees that a stop light is needed.
“You have to have something there,” he said.
But FDOT says the decision to put a roundabout at the intersection is final.
“Over the past year, we met with residents of the various HOAs along S.R. 64 to discuss this intersection,” Robin Stublen, FDOT spokesman, said in an email. “We held public workshops to get input from residents, daily drivers and stakeholders.”
A multi-lane roundabout and sidewalks will replace the existing intersection, according to a release from FDOT.
“The modern roundabout alternative will now advance into the design phase and subsequently construction,” the release sent in January states.
With design and right-of-way acquisition funding programmed in FDOT’s current fiscal year, construction funding is programmed in fiscal year 2017-18 and, weather permitting, construction should take approximately 18 months, according to the release.
“Currently there are over 6,000 modern roundabouts in the U.S. and thousands of trucks drive through them daily without issues,” Stublen said. “This is a multi-lane roundabout with a truck apron that is designed to accommodate large semi-trucks. We understand the concerns of the farming community.”
Pointing to a FDOT video featuring Ellis Hunt Jr., president of Hunt Bros. Inc. in Lake Wales, Stublen said the single lane roundabout Hunt is talking about is smaller than the Rye Road roundabout will be.
“People were questioning how well this would work,” Hunt said in the video. “Well, I’m here to tell you it works extremely well. ... I would encourage any community to embrace this.”
But with the S.R. 64/Rye Road intersection not visible from either direction, Falkner said motorists won’t expect to see the roundabout.
“How many are we going to have to kill before they tear the roundabout out? We don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Falkner said. “They didn’t talk to any of us. If they would have taken our advice, I don’t know that you would have seen it.”
There have been so “many near death experiences” along this stretch of S.R. 64, O’Brien said, adding that a no passing zone is also needed.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “We all know how DOT works. They don’t do anything until people die.”