BRADENTON — The city of Bradenton will return Manatee Avenue to its current configuration if a plan to turn the main artery into a two-lane street downtown causes traffic delays or an increase in accidents.
During a special meeting Wednesday, city council passed a resolution agreeing that it will absorb the construction cost if the Florida Department of Transportation determines Manatee Avenue is more congested or less safe within one year after completion of a joint project currently in its design phase.
The city will pay $402,000 to add parking and a drop-off lane to the north side of the street, widen sidewalks and reduce the one-way artery from three lanes to two lanes between 10th Street West and 14th Street West. The city’s part of the project also includes utility upgrades, new street lights and landscaping.
FDOT plans to repave State Road 64, which is Manatee Avenue through downtown, from 12th Street East to 15th Street West. The project is slated to begin in October and should be completed in late spring, according to FDOT spokeswoman Maricelle Venegas.
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“Their concern with that was going from three lanes to two for traffic,” Public Works Director Claude Tankersley said of FDOT. “They were a little concerned that might create some traffic problems. We feel very strongly that it won’t. One of those lanes right now is just a turn-only lane.”
Tankersley said the reconfiguration will eliminate the need for drivers navigating through downtown to merge from the far left-hand lane before that lane requires a left turn at 14th Street West.
FDOT will conduct travel time and delay studies before and after the project. The results of those studies will determine whether the city must return Manatee Avenue to its current state.
The cities of Bradenton and Palmetto recently commissioned a Downtown Mobility Study to assess the state of transportation in downtown areas. The study found that only 11 percent of drivers use Manatee Avenue as a through-street on their way to west Bradenton and Anna Maria Island. It said making the street two lanes downtown would add about 15 seconds to those drivers’ travel time.
Also during a work session Wednesday, council:
n Heard an update on Phase I of the Manatee Advanced Traffic Management System from Manatee County Traffic Engineering Division Manager Sage Kamiya.
Kamiya said the $9.8 million project, funded through Sunshine Skyway tolls, will result in the upgrade of 143 traffic signals throughout the county and the installation of 38 monitoring cameras.
The project, expected to be completed in January, will deploy monitoring technologies to ease congestion and improve traffic operations, management and safety in the county and Bradenton. A second phase will include Palmetto.
Kamiya assured council the cameras would not be used for surveillance or to catch red-light runners.
“We’re the traffic world. We want to stay out of the law enforcement world. ... The idea is not to be Big Brother,” Kamiya said.
n Heard from City Clerk Carl Callahan about a proposed change in the wording of an ordinance that requires dog owners to remove dogs’ fecal matter from public property. Callahan recommended council change the word “dogs” to “all animals” in the ordinance after the city received complaints from residents near Palma Sola Causeway about horses defecating along the shore.
Timothy R. Wolfrum, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7015.