PALMETTO -- Twice a week, Margaret Melott catches the Manatee County Area Transportation’s No. 13 bus on Haben Boulevard to go shopping at Walmart on U.S. 301 and downtown at Publix.
So do her neighbors at Courtney Apartments, a senior living facility on the busy artery.
But last week Melott had a friend drop her off at Walmart, thinking she’d take the bus home.
When the 79-year-old woman came out with a cart full of groceries, though, she got a surprise at the bus stop on U.S. 301.
“The bus driver told me we don’t go down there anymore,” Melott said Tuesday. “We never had a warning we weren’t going to have bus service or anything.”
Roadwork for a new roundabout at Haben’s midpoint is why.
It has been completely barricaded from the west and partially barricaded from the north, allowing local traffic to reach Manatee School For the Arts and Riviera Dunes.
“Everybody has access from 41 and 301, but they just can’t get through,” said Allen Tusing, Palmetto’s director of public works.
“I didn’t know about the bus service being stopped, though.”
Why MCAT ceased service without alternatives is unclear.
“It couldn’t be accessed from the west and my understanding is buses couldn’t turn around from the north,” said county spokesman Nick Azzara. “But we’re working to resolve it and hope to have a solution by Wednesday.”
Coincidentally, Carl Hunsinger was introduced at Tuesday’s county commission meeting as the new MCAT manager.
It’s a good bet he’ll be hearing from the Florida Department of Transportation, which is funding the 180-day roundabout project.
“We’re sending down an inspector Wednesday to examine the situation,” said FDOT spokesperson Cindy Clemmons. “We will look into the concerns with the city and county and see what we can do to rectify it.”
It can’t happen soon enough for residents at Courtney Apartments.
Walking north to U.S. 301 to catch the bus is an ordeal.
“I have a pacemaker, it’s not that easy,” Melott said.
Same for Glenna Forkey, who uses a walker.
“I can walk up there if I have to, but it’s a pain for me to do that,” the 70-year-old said.
“There’s no way some people who live here can walk three blocks to 301,” said Brenda Olney, 65. “They depend on that bus to get around.
“Fortunately, I just bought a car. Good timing.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.