Roundabouts may be coming to U.S. 41

Four roundabouts are being considered for a two-mile stretch of U.S. 41.

The Florida Department of Transportation is looking at the roundabouts between Tallevast Road and University Parkway along U.S. 41. The entire project with the roundabouts — proposed at U.S. 41’s intersections with University Parkway, College Drive, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee entrance and Braden Avenue — and lane elimination is estimated to cost $33.19 million.

With or without the lane elimination, FDOT found that the University Parkway intersection is the “bottling point,” said L.K. Nandam with FDOT.

“University Parkway is the one that controls the operations,” he said. “The key for us is focusing on University Parkway.”

The project, which is still in the preliminary phases, is tentatively scheduled in the fiscal year 2021-22 work program. Manatee commissioners heard a presentation from FDOT officials Tuesday.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for a very long time,” Commissioner Betsy Benac said. “This area is extremely important in our urban redevelopment places. It’s just a great place to live down there. We need to continue to make it more livable.”

Calling the project music to her ears, Commissioner Robin DiSabatino said she would like to see its boundaries extended to Pearl Avenue.

“That could just be part of the whole plan,” she said. “I think that part is really critical.”

Nandam stressed that the project still has to go through a project development study.

“The concept will probably change as we go through the planning process,” he said.

Since the price tag associated with the project is steep, Nandam said it will be a staged process, but whether it will start from the south or the north has yet to be decided.

“It’s got to be staged,” he said. “The project development study will determine that.”

With a number of transportation needs, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said they must not give up on other needs, pointing to the DeSoto Bridge replacement.

“It would be hard to try to move that out of the way to get this done,” she said. “Our needs are so high with transportation.”

But after talking about this corridor for 30 years, Benac said it has to move forward to construction.

“We can’t just keep planning,” she said.

With one of the roundabouts planned right outside his restaurant, Primo! Ristorante owner Maurizio Colucci questioned the project’s wisdom.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea at all,” he said. “Absolutely, it will affect my business.”

While Colucci is originally from Italy where there are roundabouts, Colucci said, one at the Braden Avenue and U.S. 41 intersection would be a waste of money.

“I’ve been asking for years to put in medians to slow down traffic,” he said. “Medians I think would work much better.”

But for USF, the roundabout would be a welcome addition as there is currently no light at the campus entrance, said Casey Welch, USFSM assistant vice president for external affairs and government relations.

“We are in support of any safety improvements to Tamiami Trail for the safety of our students and our faculty and our staff, and frankly our visitors who come to our campus on a daily basis,” he said.

This is part of an ongoing conversation about improving the safety of the corridor that dates back years.

“Our No. 1 concern is improving the safety for people visiting our campus,” Welch said.

Also on Tuesday, the commission:

  • Added 77 calendar days and $578,575.71 to the contract with Cayo LLC for the Cortez Groins project.
  • Reappointed Michael Rahn and Paul Rutledge to the county’s planning commission.
  • Authorized the submittal of the Community Transportation Coordinator Mobility Enhancement grant application to the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged. In the grant application, the county would offer a 31-day unlimited ride fixed route bus pass to eligible TD clients.

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson