EAST MANATEE -- The Florida Department of Transportation is studying the feasibility of installing roundabouts on State Road 64 East at its intersections with Rye Road and Lorraine Road as a way of slowing traffic.
"We are studying them and we have not made a determination at this time," Robin Stublen, a spokesman for the FDOT, said this week.
Manatee County Public Works Director Ron Schulhofer requested that FDOT conduct a traffic-signal study on July 28.
In response, FDOT determined that a signal was warranted at Rye Road, but that a right-turn lane would eliminate 80 percent of the problems there with the addition of a signal, Stublen said.
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Schulhofer's reaction to the roundabout study?
"Wow, how are you doing it?" he said Thursday. "I look forward to seeing the results."
Roundabouts are more frequently considered for slower-speed streets in urban areas, but Schulhofer said Europe has successfully and safely constructed high-speed traffic circles.
Roundabouts are also proposed along 38th Avenue East at 27th and 30th streets east, but those are not four-lane roads and have a slower speed limit.
FDOT conducted traffic-signal studies for SR 64 at Rye Road in 2005, 2008 and 2013, Stublen said.
"We were studying Rye Road and decided to also study Lorraine Road, since both intersections have a lot of similarities," Stublen said.
Asked about the plausibility of roundabouts on a higher-speed highway such as SR 64, Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said she has reservations.
"I have been on the roundabouts in Sarasota County and they do slow traffic down. But those roads are not state highways. I am a little concerned, but I do believe that we need to do something," Baugh said.
"I can't tell you how happy I am that they are trying to come up with answers," she said.
In one of the most horrific accidents at Rye Road and State Road, Brett Wagner and Joshua Rogers, both 18, were killed on Christmas of 2011 when a driver pulled away from a stop sign and hit their pickup truck broadside. A third passenger in the truck, Terron Saunders, a former University of Florida football player, survived.
A memorial marks the site of the crash.
Residents regularly complain about speeding along that section of highway, and difficulty pulling off Rye Road onto State Road 64 East.
The roundabout study should be completed in about three weeks, Stublen said.
Roundabouts are an effective way of slowing traffic, without halting traffic, he said. They reduce injuries in crashes by slowing vehicles.
If a roundabout were to be installed along the highway, it would be well-lighted and well-marked to alert drivers, he said.
Gary Roberts, a resident of Mill Creek, the closest community to Rye Road and State Road 64, said he has no issue with roundabouts.
"They work well in England," he said.
Kent Kimes, also a Mill Creek resident, was a little more skeptical.
"It doesn't seem appropriate for a high-speed state road," Kimes said. "It seems odd to me."
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.