BRADENTON -- The occasional stubborn driver was still trying to negotiate a much more difficult illegal left turn into the Thorntons gas station at 4850 State Road 64 as work on the $33,000 project to correct an ineffective traffic design at the stations entrance on 48th Street Court East wrapped up Friday.
But for the most part, drivers are getting the idea, according to Bradenton Public Works Director Claude Tankersley.
"People are figuring it out," said Tankersley, who noted that preventing that turn, for safety's sake, was the primary stipulation of Thorntons developing the site.
"We recognized with the construction of Thorntons on this intersection that it was a lot of benefit to Bradenton, but it also was going to affect the Braden River Lakes neighborhood and the thought was that it would be a negative impact," said Tankersley. "We said 'yes' to the project, as long as nobody was allowed to make that left turn into the station for safety, but unfortunately, what was built did not prevent that from happening."
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The idea was to prevent that left turn just south of State Road 64 on 48th Street Court East to allow traffic exiting the gas station to turn south unhindered toward Braden River Lakes. Thorntons engineers designed a traffic flow that included putting up plastic poles blocking half of the lane leading up to the entrance and installing a no-left-turn sign.
It didn't work.
Drivers ignored the sign and made the turn anyway, creating near-accidents with vehicles exiting the gas station to turn left and causing traffic to back up near or onto State Road 64. The idea was to push traffic further to the south to do a legal U-turn and travel back to the north to turn right into the station.
"Everyone always wants to get to their destination as quickly as possible and the opening in the median lined up perfectly for people to think it was appropriate to use that entrance," said Tankersley.
That's when the city stepped back in to try and resolve the issue and Tankersley presented a new traffic design to replace the Thorntons design.
"We made a promise to the citizens of that neighborhood to minimize the negative impact, that's why it was specified at the development approval," he said. "But when it became obvious that design wasn't working, the city stepped up and started talking to Thorntons, the bank and the neighborhood to find a solution that would work."
Thorntons has ultimately agreed to pay $10,000 toward the project, leaving the city with a $23,000 expense, but city officials felt it was more important to keep a promise.
A Thorntons representative could not be reached Friday.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.