Manatee Avenue getting a makeover?

BRADENTON — If all goes as planned, drivers will be traveling through downtown in two lanes rather than three along Manatee Avenue this time next spring.

The proposal to reduce the lanes on the road to two will widen the sidewalks and allow parking on both sides of the street in some of the five-block stretch of Manatee Avenue. Left and right turns will be from the two through-lanes, except at 14th Street West, where a left-turn-only lane will be built.

The Florida Department of Transportation will be resurfacing the roadway from 12th Street East to 15th Street West. Plans also include improvements to stormwater drainage system, intersection signals, new street lights, and landscaping and irrigation.

FDOT officials will hold an open house from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Manatee County Administration Building for the public to learn more about the project.

“There’s not going to be a formal presentation,” said Maricelle Venegas, spokeswoman for FDOT, “but this will be an opportunity to view the plans and talk to the project team.” Venegas said engineers also will be available to answer any technical questions.

Work on the project is scheduled to begin in August and be completed by spring next year.

The multi-million dollar project may include the reconfiguring of Manatee Avenue West between Ninth to 15th streets into two lanes.

The cities of Bradenton and Palmetto commissioned the Orlando-based Renaissance Planning Group to do a two-year, $300,000 Downtown Mobility Study.

The study looked at the current state of transportation in the two cities’ downtown areas and made recommendations to improve pedestrian, bicycle, motor vehicle and transit mobility.

A similar plan was suggested in the late 1990s, but faced heavy resistance from drivers who use the busy artery to pass through downtown on their way to West Bradenton and Anna Maria Island.

But the study found that only 11 percent of those drivers use Manatee Avenue as a through street, and two-laning the five blocks in downtown will only add about 15 seconds to their travel time.

With the success of similar projects in other Florida cities, Claude Tankersley, director of the Bradenton Public Works Department, said he expects more public support for the proposal.

“I’ve driven Main Street in Gainesville and saw that it made a difference,” Tankersley said.

“It slows down drivers and makes them think about what they are doing, which makes it smoother to get through town.”

Palmetto has implemented portions of the recommendations, including adding left-turn lanes along 10th Street West.

One project the study recommends as a joint effort for both cities is the widening of the pedestrian/bicycle path across the Green Bridge.

FDOT has already signed off on the proposal to reduce the width of the southbound vehicle lane to provide room for a more effective pedestrian/bicycle path.

In Bradenton, Manatee County has begun work on building a transit mall on 13th Street East, between Sixth and Eight avenues for bus transfers, another recommendation of the study.

Many of the other study proposals, such as the two roundabouts, street-calming devices to slow traffic down on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and narrowing Sixth Avenue West through downtown to two lanes, will have to wait until a funding source is found.

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