These are Manatee’s high-priority crash locations. Here’s what’s being done to make them safer

What will traffic in Bradenton-Sarasota look like in 25 years?

What will traffic in Bradenton-Sarasota look like in 25 years? Local governments present their focus to Florida Department of Transportation and the Sarasota/Bradenton Metropolitan Planning Organization
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What will traffic in Bradenton-Sarasota look like in 25 years? Local governments present their focus to Florida Department of Transportation and the Sarasota/Bradenton Metropolitan Planning Organization

It would be an understatement to say that engineers have a full plate trying to manage traffic in the Bradenton-Sarasota area, much less look ahead to the next quarter century.

An overflowing buffet would be more accurate.

Traffic engineers, who start with concerns for the safety for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, have their work cut out for them.

In 2017, the Bradenton-Sarasota area reported 20,753 crashes, 116 fatalities and 1,423 serious injuries.

Bradenton-Sarasota-North Port is ranked fourth in the nation as most dangerous for pedestrians, and is ranked first for the percentage increase in pedestrian crashes, up 86 percent since 2016.

In 2017, there were 271 pedestrian crashes and 28 fatalities. During the same period, there were 275 bike crashes, with 10 of them fatal.

During a Transform Tomorrow long-range planning session at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, representatives of local governments lined up to, in rapid-fire order, present their needs and goals through 2045.

With more than 20 speakers addressing the long-range traffic planning forum for the Bradenton-Sarasota area at USF Sarasota-Manatee on Monday, time was limited. Speakers got a red stop sign when it was time for them to leave the dais. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

The top two high-priority crash locations in the two-county area are in Manatee County.

Top of the list is Cortez Road between Calm Harbor Street and First Street West. No. 2 on the list is 53rd Avenue between U.S. 41 and 301 Boulevard/15th Street East, according to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Other Manatee County crash locations in the top 20 include:

  • No. 8: Cortez Road from 30th Street West to 82nd Street West.
  • No. 9: 26th Street West from Cortez Road south to 56th Avenue West.
  • No. 10: Ninth Street East from Twin Oaks Boulevard to U.S. 301.
  • No. 12: 26th Street West from 26th Avenue West south to Cortez Road.
  • No. 16: 15th Street East (301 Boulevard East) from 26th Avenue East to State Road 70.
  • No. 17: Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach from Holmes Boulevard to 58th Street.
  • No. 19: North Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria from Pine Avenue to Poinsettia Road.

Clarke Davis, interim deputy director of traffic management for Manatee County, noted the growing congestion on Bradenton area roads. In 1990, Manatee County’s population was 213,179, and in 2017 it was estimated at 385,571.

Traffic planning is not done in a vacuum. Also in the mix in Manatee County are other issues such as affordable housing, climate change, the transition of rural areas into suburbia and economic development, Davis said.

Participants in Monday’s Transform Tomorrow long-range traffic planning forum were asked to vote for where they would place their emphasis in the future. The forum was help at USF Sarasota-Manatee. James A. Jones Jr. jajones1@bradenton.com

Manatee County’s 2045 focus would be on performance-based multi-modal system of transportation infrastructure and service, replacement of aging bridges, creation of more north-south capacity, upgrading rural roads and intersections, and completion of on-going major road projects, Davis said.

Local priorities include connectivity and accessibility, attention to intersections and on-going projects, including 44th Avenue East, Fort Hamer Road and Moccasin Wallow Road, Davis said.

Federal and state priorities for Manatee County include DeSoto Bridge replacement and the crossing capacity over the Manatee River.

Lynn Burnett, city engineer for Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, said beach communities are faced with aging infrastructure, and concerns about pedestrian and bike safety.

Many of the island streets are pitch-black at night, in part because of rules regulating street lights to protect nesting sea turtles.

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Island issues include congestion, lack of infrastructure to support alternative modes of transportation, high crash rates for bicyclists and pedestrians, and vulnerable evacuation routes, Burnett said.

“We can’t add any more roads so all we can do is enhance what we have,” Burnett said.

At the end of the forum, MPO strategic planning manager Lynn Holt asked participants to mark their preference for where priority should be given to local transportation needs in the next quarter century. Choices ranged from safety, security and preparedness to bridges, congestion, livability and environment.

“We have to make choices and we have limited resources. That is always an issue,” Holt said.

The MPO will use the results to help generate its long-range plan for 2045. A ballot summary was not available Monday.