What’s next for extending 44th Avenue East? Bridging the Braden River
Some call it the Manatee County road construction project of the decade.
The 44th Avenue East extension project eventually will provide an east-west connector between Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch at an estimated cost of $162.3 million.
It will encompass a diverse swath of Manatee County, rolling through the urban core past blue collar neighborhoods, business parks, cattle pastures and upscale homes, as well as the Lena Road landfill and county waste water treatment plant.
It should be completed between 2023 and 2024.
The most expensive and difficult work is yet to come.
When the Manatee County Commission initially approved the first segment of the extension in 1987, it was from First Street East to 15th Street East and there was no community of Lakewood Ranch.
It wasn’t until 2006, that Manatee County commissioners formally put the extension of 44th Avenue East from Cortez Road to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard on the drawing board with a cost at that time estimated at between $150 million and $200 million, the Bradenton Herald previously reported.
The extension would be three lanes wide from Cortez Road to 19th Street Court East, and four lanes from 19th Street Court East to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. Work started to extend the roadway in 2013.
Earlier this year, the latest segment of 44th Avenue East to be completed — from 19th Street Court East to 45th Street East — was completed and opened to traffic.
Associated with the 44th Avenue project is the widening of 45th Street East from two lanes to four from 44th Avenue East to State Road 70 East. That project is forecast to be completed by the summer of 2019 at a cost of $9.8 million.
Manatee County government this week urged motorists to adhere to the posted speed limit of 25 mph on 45th Street East and to watch for traffic lane shifts, barrels and flagmen, and to avoid blocking the driveway in front of Fire Station No. 4.
Manatee County also has implemented a temporary four-way stop at the intersection of 44th Avenue East and 45th Street East that will remain until the intersection is signalized at the completion of the project.
Work is expected to begin in mid-2019 to push 44th Avenue East from 45th Street East across the Braden River via a low-profile bridge and to be completed in 2021. Estimated cost: $89 million.
In 2021, it is anticipated that work will start on extending 44th Avenue East from 44th Avenue Plaza East north of the Creekwood community and over Interstate 75 at a cost of $33 million.
Neal Communities already is working on the 44th Avenue Plaza East segment at Creekwood Boulevard.
Once completed, this segment would become a T-intersection with 44th Avenue running east toward I-75.
Complicating the project when it lands on the east side of I-75 is that it must work around and accommodate part of the county’s waste water treatment system, a 90-acre effluent lake and a wetland mitigation area.
Even after 44th Avenue is completed between Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Cortez Road, there could be more. The east-west connector may at some point extend further east to Bournside Road, a continuation of Dam Road that serves Lake Manatee.
Manatee County Planning Official John Osborne calls the 44th Avenue East extension, along with the Fort Hamer Bridge project, the road construction projects of the decade.
The portion of the 44th Avenue East extension that would bridge I-75 is now being designed, said Sia Mollanazar, county engineer and deputy director of Manatee County Public Works.
The county has been in a land acquisition mode for the past 16 months, acquiring 40 parcels needed to extend the roadway from 45th Street East to 44th Avenue Plaza East, acquiring 31 lots or houses with another six to go on west side of the Braden River where 44th Avenue East dead ends at 52nd Street East.
There are another three or four parcels needed for that project, and Mollanazar hopes to complete that process by year’s end.
“Our plan is to advertise for bids in the first quarter of 2019 and publish a notice to proceed in four to six months after that,” Mollanazar said.
Although no one disputes that the extension makes for a new and convenient east-west alternative, neighbors have sometimes expressed opposition.
In 2011, residents of the Highland Ridge and Oak Trace neighborhoods asked Manatee County to either scrap plans for the 44th Avenue East extension or put up buffering walls, citing noise, traffic and safety concerns.
Two years later, residents from Peridia, Sable Key, Sable Harbour, Fairfax, Highland Ridge, Wallingford and Manatee Oaks voiced objections to the 44th Avenue East extension, citing noise, traffic and the effect on property values, the Herald previously reported.
Mollanazar noted, however, that developers of each of the affected neighborhoods dedicated land to the future road way at the time of preliminary site plan approval — “way before subdivisions were constructed, home sites were built and home owners showed up.”
Bill Campbell, who has lived along the Braden River for 40 years, was fatalistic about the future when he talked to the Herald about the bridge in 2016.
“It is the reality,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of folks out here who have lived out here and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It is going to go away no matter how they sugarcoat it.”
To date, a little more than two miles of 44th Avenue East has been extended, with another six miles remaining to connect it with Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
“It’s been tedious, time consuming. A lot of money has been spent, but well spent,” Mollanazar said. “We have spent more on road construction in the last 10-12 years that we did the previous 20.”
For more information about the 44th Avenue East extension project, visit http://44thaveeast.com/