One-third of the nearly 100,000 vehicles traveling on the Green and DeSoto bridges daily are just passing through Bradenton and Palmetto.
An elevated throughway located in the DeSoto corridor could be an option as state and local officials look to improve the movement of traffic in the Bradenton-Palmetto area, according to a presentation made Monday to the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“It’s regional traffic with no origin or destination in two communities,” said Brent Lacy, a consultant working with Florida Department of Transportation on the Central Manatee Network Alternatives Analysis. “It’s pretty obvious that there is a lot of north-south demand that is not going to be satisfied by current or existing capacity that you have.”
Officials from Manatee and Sarasota counties heard the update on the Central Manatee Network Alternatives Analysis, which has been underway for 1 1/2 years and “is a detailed look at the traffic in and around Bradenton and Palmetto,” said Dave Hutchinson, MPO executive director.
“Out of this analysis will come specific projects, either operational improvements or major improvements such as a new bridge,” he said.
FDOT will deliver another update about the study to the Manatee County Commission at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the first-floor commission chambers.
This is the study’s second phase. Its last phase, which will be programming and implementing plans for projects, is now scheduled to begin next spring, said Lawrence Massey, FDOT project manager.
“We have accelerated the project significantly by six months,” he said.
With the projected daily traffic on both the Green and DeSoto bridges expected to greatly increase by 2040, it has long been thought that a third bridge would help alleviate traffic congestion across the Manatee River. The MPO will hear the recommended major capacity improvements in October.
Local planning officials were presented with three options Monday that are being examined: the elevated throughway; and a third bridge in one of two corridors: in the 15th Street East/NinthStreet East area, and the second around 26th Street East.
The different locations for a third bridge would have varying effects on traffic on the existing bridges. For example, a bridge built in the 26th Street East area would reduce the amount of traffic on the DeSoto Bridge by 22,300 vehicles a day and on the Green Bridge by 5,100. However, a bridge built in the DeSoto corridor such as the elevated throughway would reduce traffic in that corridor by 26,100 and the Green Bridge by 17,300.
“I think we have demonstrated a clear need for a third crossing,” said Greg Moore, a consultant also working on the analysis for FDOT. “It is more difficult when you start to commit to a third bridge in a certain location.”
A new bridge built outside the existing DeSoto corridor would take at least 10 years longer than one built within the corridor, according to Monday’s presentation.
“My interest is to get this concept rolling, not because I’ll be using it but because my daughter will be needing it,” said Patrick Roff, Bradenton vice mayor. “There’s new numbers coming of homes and it’s a heck of a lot closer to us than it is Tampa for what roads that they are going to be using — and there is no beach in Tampa.”
Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said they’ve been in this process for a long time.
“We are really finally beginning to make progress and looking at real alternatives,” she said.
Also on Monday, the MPO:
- Adopted the fiscal year 2017-18 through 2021-22 Transportation Improvement Program.
- Approved the 2017 project priorities, which includes advancing right-of-way funding for the 15th Street East project as well as the design of the roundabout at U.S. 41 at University Parkway.
- Heard an update about the possible realignment of 119th Street West onto a portion of the Florida Maritime Museum property. “I think we are on the right path,” said David Gwynn, FDOT director of transportation operations.
- Heard an update about the Barrier Island Traffic Study, which is underway. “We’ve done a lot of the data collection,” Gwynn said. “Right now we are getting into more of the meat of the study.”