MANATEE -- As Lakewood Ranch resident Michael Paolino drove along Lorraine Road, he watched numerous cars and trucks fly past him in the left lane as he obeyed the posted speed limit of 35 mph.
Paolino, who lives in The Country Club, knows many motorists ignore the posted speed limit, traveling too fast along Lorraine Road between State Road 70 and University Parkway. Paolino worries that with a speed limit increase, as proposed by county officials, motorists will even go faster.
On Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission will consider changing speed limits on 12 county roads, including the stretch on Lorraine Road. Officials are proposing to increase the speed limit there to 45 mph, reducing travel time on the 3.1-mile stretch by 71 seconds, according to Paolino.
"The savings in driving time is not worth the increase in danger -- danger to school children, bike riding and driving," he said.
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Paolino's home abuts Lorraine Road, and if there is an accident and a truck driver loses control, they could end up on his property, he said.
"You are going to have to dig it out of my swimming pool, if not my bedroom," Paolino said.
The public hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the first-floor commission chambers,
Manatee County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
County staff conducted a "traffic analysis of major thoroughfares countywide for consistency of speed limits," according to agenda materials. The commission discussed the proposed changes at a work session in May.
If approved, the changes would cost the county $15,000 to install new signs, according to agenda documents.
Paolino's concerns are similar to those other Manatee residents have about possible speed limit changes in their neighborhoods.
Whitfield Avenue proposal
Palm Aire residents Ann and Bill Coffey often ride their bikes or walk along Whitfield Avenue. Ann Coffey said she doesn't understand the need to increase the speed limit along Whitfield Avenue between Lockwood Ridge Road and University Parkway from 30 mph to 40 mph.
"It's not a major freeway," she said. "I don't understand who came up with the idea that it should be increased."
Coffey said she actually would like to see the speed limit decreased to 25 mph.
"I don't see any good coming of increasing the speed limit," she said.
Ed Kornberger, Palm Aire Country Club president, says there's no need to change something that isn't broken.
"This has a huge implication on the culture, the safety and the evolution of something that's been here for a long time," he said.
During a community meeting in June, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who represents the community, heard from more than 60 Palm Aire residents about their concerns about increasing the speed limit along that stretch of Whitfield Avenue. Baugh told residents she was not in favor of it, either.
"The speed limit is there for a reason," Baugh told them.
Baugh also encouraged the Palm Aire residents to email all commissioners with their concerns, and they have for the past couple months.
Bob Bennett, who has lived in Palm Aire for almost 18 years, has led the residents' efforts to oppose the change.
"I think it is important for the commission to understand that there is a large, broad group of people opposed to what is being proposed," he said. "We've been saying it ad nauseam. Our road isn't conditioned for higher speed."
But Marian Sroge, who has lived in Palm Aire for more than 10 years, supports the speed limit increases on Whitfield Avenue and Honore Avenue.
"It's a thoroughfare," Sroge said of Whitfield Avenue. "It's a main through street from University (Parkway) headed west. There are no houses on it. ... It's no longer a little community road that has access to individual houses."
A speed limit increase will help traffic move, Sroge said.
"If most people are going 40 mph anyway, that should be what the speed limit is," she said. "Honore and Whitfield are supposed to be thoroughfares to take some of the burden off 75."
Changes on other roads
East Manatee resident Richard Contini, who lives near Rye Road in East Manatee, would like to see the speed limit on Rye Road between State Road 64 and County Road 675 lowered to at least 50 mph. The recommendation is to keep the speed limit at 55 mph.
"It could even be more," Contini said. "Fifty is realistic based on the other roads in the area. ... It's a little skinny farm road."
Contini points to other roads in the county with lower speeds than Rye Road. Upper Manatee River Road and Lorraine Road from State Road 64 to State Road 70 are both 50 mph. So "why is Rye Road 55?" he asks.
"It is really just a safety thing," Contini added. "It just seems odd. Reconsider to lowering that and helping out with safety out on that road."
Lou Siegel, who lives in The Country Club, can hear the traffic along Lorraine Road from his lanai.
"The speed will only exacerbate that if it is increased," he said.
Golf cart use change
The commission will also consider an ordinance that would remove Whitfield Avenue, Tara Boulevard and El Conquistador Parkway from the list of roadways designated for golf carts.
Golf carts are the fabric of the Palm Aire community, Kornberger argues.
"It's the bedrock of what this community is," he said.
During the eight months of the year Kornberger is in Palm Aire, he, like many residents, uses a golf cart to get around.
"People moved here because of the cart community we have," he said. "That's how people commute back and forth. They are going to change the fabric of who we are."
Ann Coffey also uses a golf cart as a second mode of transportation.
"It would change the culture of our club," she said.
But Sroge says the only problem on Whitfield Avenue is the golf carts.
"There are many people with golf carts, and they fail to obey stop signs," she said. "They don't really belong on Whitfield. They go extremely slow and they do not obey the stop signs."
As an alternative, county staff proposes designating county sidewalks in the IMG Academies Golf and Country Club and Palm Aire communities for golf carts. But Bennett said Palm Aire is different than other areas.
"Palm Aire is Palm Aire. It's isn't Terra. It isn't IMG," he said. "That road goes right through the heart of our place, and to ban carts and raise the speed limit is detrimental."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.