MANATEE -- Manatee County must view its transportation issues with an eye toward the region, Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said Tuesday.
"To me, it is extremely important that we look on a regional basis," said Benac, who is also a Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority Board member.
TBARTA Executive Director Ray Chiaramonte delivered an update on its Regional Transportation Master Plan to the Manatee County Commission at the meeting.
"It's really important that we do work together on transportation projects and problems, which are sometimes complex in a region this big," Chiaramonte said.
The master plan includes "eight projects deemed by the region as the most important projects," he said.
Master plan priorities include the diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 and University Parkway, multimodal improvements along 15th
Street from Tallevast Road to U.S. 41, U.S. 41 multimodal emphasis corridor from Palmetto to North Port and regional multi-use trails and greenways.
Chiaramonte also discussed extending commuter services such as the Vanpool Program, Carpool Ridematching and School Commute Program into Manatee County.
"This is something I feel strongly that we should expand," he said of the Vanpool program. "Most efficient way to get people off the roads. ... We need to be more incremental and move forward in a different way."
With school resuming in Manatee County this week, Benac said increased traffic was obvious Tuesday. Commissioner Charles Smith said it took him more than an hour to get from Palmetto to the commission meeting.
"We are in need here of some help to try and figure out how we can come up with a school commute program to get some people off the roads," Benac said. "We can't continue to build our way out of the gridlock that we have."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.