BRADENTON -- Southbound vehicles turning onto 48th Street Court East off State Road 64 East to enter the new Thorntons gas station aren't supposed to take the first left into the gas station -- but they do.
In 10 minutes of observation recently, more than 30 vehicles and trucks turned off S.R. 64 and every one ignored a "No Left Turn" sign to swing into Thorntons instead of driving a few feet farther south to do the suggested U-turn to reach the gas station without poten
tially blocking traffic.
Braden River Lakes residents say the situation is dangerous and the current configuration isn't working.
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City officials agree and are coming up with a redesign plan to alleviate growing concerns the configuration is an accident waiting to happen.
Thorntons engineers, as part of the development, extended an existing median to narrow the turn area to discourage drivers heading south from making an illegal turn and coming into possible contact with drivers looking to turn left legally out of Thorntons and into Braden River Lakes.
"We looked at the configuration, and we're not satisfied, and we think it can work better if it is reconfigured," said Public Works Director Claude Tankersley. "What we have done with our own engineers is we came up with several different plans to make it operate more clearly and safer."
Tankersley said he will present two "solid" options to Bradenton City Council members individually before bringing a plan before the entire council Wednesday.
"We just think there is another way," he said. "We observed traffic and saw people were not turning where they are supposed to."
The idea is to encourage motorists to drive a few extra feet to the U-turn area, which may not appear to make sense at certain times of the day, Tankersley said. During heavy congestion the left-turn area is dangerous.
Beside the potential for drivers exiting and entering Thorntons to collide, Tankersley said the potential to cause temporary gridlock between the medians and cause traffic to back up onto S.R. 64 "is a dangerous situation."
Thus far, only Thorntons has spent money on the current configuration, but Braden River Lakes residents are now asking the city to make it right.
Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff said the city assured residents allowing Thorntons to develop the site would not have a negative impact on the neighborhood.
"We assured them we would be the Friendly City on this issue," said Roff. "It's a good thing for us to keep our end of the agreement."
The city and Thorntons are negotiating who will pay for the reconfiguration. City Clerk Carl Callahan said Thorntons is open to contributing toward a solution but the city could use road impact fees to front an estimated $35,000 and seek reimbursement in order to move the project forward.
Vice Mayor Bemis Smith said he supports a solution that would not cost taxpayers money for a design flaw by Thorntons.
"It's all been driven by bad planning," said Smith. A Thorntons representative did not return calls for comment.
Tankersley said if the council can agree on a proposal Wednesday, it would set the project in motion to be completed no later than mid-October.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.