MANATEE -- Construction is slated to start next fall on the first of a series of road safety improvements along a busy -- and deadly -- stretch of U.S. 41 notorious for car crashes and pedestrian fatalities, officials said Tuesday.
Improvements planned for busy Tamiami Trail between Cortez Road and 69th Avenue West include new sidewalks, bike lanes, lighting, traffic signal updates and intersection improvements, according to state and local transportation officials.
"It's a wonderful investment in the corridor," said Dave Hutchinson, planning manager for the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization. "They should all greatly enhance safety."
He said the various projects will take place over the next few years.
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U.S. 41, also known as Tamiami Trail, is a six-lane, undivided urban roadway with an 11-foot bidirectional center left-turn lane. Among the projects planned for the congested roadway, according to Metropolitan Planning Organization records, are:
Design and construction of pedestrian "refuge" islands from Cortez Road to 69th Avenue (Bay Drive).
New sidewalks and bike lanes from Cortez Road to 69th Avenue.
New lighting from 53rd Avenue West to 63rd Avenue West.
Intersection improvement at 57th Avenue West.
Traffic signal updates at 53rd Avenue West, 60th Avenue West and 63rd Avenue West (Bayshore Gardens Parkway).
"We're doing it for the safety of the traveling public," said Mike Howe, MPO executive director, a regional transportation planning agency.
The design for the pedestrian refuge islands is complete, and construction is expected to begin in the fall, according to Ryan Baderschneider, an engineer with CES Engineering, whose firm is affiliated with the Florida Department of Transportation.
With an approximate construction cost of $1.6 million, the pedestrian refuge islands are slated for completion next summer, he said.
Plans for sidewalk and lighting improvements are about 60 percent designed, Baderschneider said, with an approximate construction cost of $3.2 million.
Lane closures are anticipated to be done at night with at least one lane in each direction open at all times, he said.
The latest pedestrian fatality along a particularly treacherous stretch of the highway occurred early Saturday when a Bradenton man was killed attempting to cross near 55th Avenue West, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.
The victim, Anthony Taylor, 55, was crossing mid-block and reportedly failed to yield to an oncoming vehicle.
From 2007-11, officials reported 800 crashes, 673 injuries and eight pedestrian fatalities along the 1.25-mile stretch of U.S. 41 from 53rd Avenue West to 63rd Avenue West, the Bradenton Herald has previously reported. In 2012, there were 192 crashes with one fatality, it reported.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.