BRADENTON -- A $390,000 project to improve lighting along dark sections of Manatee Avenue West will begin Aug. 25.
The project consists of installing 35 new streetlights on the north side of Manatee Avenue West from 59th to 77th streets west.
The project was approved more than a year ago with the Florida Department of Transportation accepting a Manatee/Sarasota Metropolitan Planning Organization recommendation to proceed as a priority safety project.
The project is being funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to Robin Stublen, FDOT communications specialist, the contract was awarded to MSB Services of Bradenton.
The start of construction coincides with the opening week of schools in Manatee County. Stublen said lanes will be closed only when it shouldn't interfere with school-related traffic.
Lane closures can take place from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.
MSB Services partner Michael Delagarza confirmed the contract calls for a 150-day timeline, but said he was confident the project could be completed before the holiday season begins.
MPO Executive Director Michael Howe has called this a priority safety project from the beginning.
"There's no question that this area was highlighted for the potential safety benefits," Howe said in February. "It's most definitely a safety project."
According to FDOT accident data from 2008-12, there were 245 crashes in the project area, including 13 bicycle/pedestrian-related accidents, which injured 106 people. Most of the accidents occurred during the day in heavy traffic, but 49 occurred during the night
when traffic is light.
The project is technically a continuation of work begun about six years ago from 34th Street West. It was supposed to continue to 75th Street West but stopped at 59th Street West.
Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo has expressed frustration in the length of time passed since the prior FDOT project stopped.
"I never have been able to get an explanation why it stopped," he said. "I learned a long time ago, that FDOT is one of the most independent agencies the state has and this is the second time I had to wait, wait and wait some more on a potentially dangerous situation to be addressed."
Gallo said the lights installed six years ago have made a difference considering only the north side of Manatee Avenue is lighted.
"I think that worked well and you really have to have some kind of power to get lights on both sides of a roadway," he said. "I'm glad we are finally getting done before somebody gets killed. It's a shame to wait this long, but the bottom line is it's finally going to get done."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.