Pedestrians wait May 18 to cross at the Cortez Road intersection at Gulf Drive, west of the Cortez Bridge in Bradenton Beach. Officials and planners have discussed acquiring the property on the west side of Gulf Drive to accommodate a roundabout. Island Photo: Kane Kaiman
They’re trying to get us out of a traffic jam.
The Barrier Island Traffic Committee – an eight-member body established to advise the Sarasota / Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization on technical issues related to the implementation of the Barrier Island Traffic Study – s ‘met on May 17.
The BITC, which is working to reduce traffic congestion on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key according to the study, discussed:
- Reduced levels of traffic congestion on barrier islands during this year’s busy season;
- The installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Cortez Road and Gulf Drive;
- The addition of a third “flexible” lane to the Cortez Megabridge.
During the project update portion of the meeting, Lynn Burnett, the city engineer hired by Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, said the construction and staging of vehicles associated with infrastructure projects at the southern end of Anna Maria Island caused traffic jams and set plans for Bradenton Beach to reconfigure parking lots in the pending area.
“I think we’re probably going into the next busy season in pretty much the same position we were last year, except hopefully not as much construction, equipment, staging. and things like that slowing things down, ”she said. .
Burnett’s report prompted Isaac Brownman, director of public works for Longboat Key, to mention that despite plans for the Coquina Beach area, traffic congestion on Longboat Key was lighter than last year, according to comments from the Coquina Beach area. audience he received.
Burnett agreed. Northbound traffic on Anna Maria Island has been better this year, she said.
“Until the road has been closed for sewerage work, I agree there has been an improvement,” Burnett said. “And after more than three decades of monitoring traffic trends, I’m going to attribute that to the improvements that have been made to Cortez and 123rd Street.”
Make circles back
The installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Gulf Drive and Cortez Road west of the Cortez Bridge has been a long-standing topic of discussion for Barrier Island officials and planners.
Although a DOT analysis determined that a roundabout was not feasible due to the cost of acquiring the right-of-way, the idea was back on the table at the BITC meeting.
Burnett reported that Bradenton Beach city commissioners discussed the acquisition of the property at the western terminus of Cortez Road.
As it stands, the property is too close to the intersection to allow the construction of a roundabout.
In its 5-year interim work plan, the DOT scheduled a 2024-25 “Complete Streets” project study for National Highway 789 along the town of Bradenton Beach.
There is a chance that the $ 1.25 million study, which would include the intersection of Gulf Drive and Cortez Road, could be conducted sooner, said Jesten Abraham, DOT District 1 community liaison officer.
Abraham said he would know more about the timeline in July, when DOT’s work program development cycle begins.
Although the project is advanced, Abraham did not make any back door promises.
“I don’t know what the best treatment would be, obviously, until we actually look at (the study),” he said.
Where is the flexibility?
DOT plans to replace the 17-foot Cortez drawbridge with a 65-foot fixed span bridge in 2026-2027.
Following a presentation on the state of Megabridge design, Brownman and Susan Montgomery, a Manatee County area transit planner, expressed concerns about the lack of a flexible third track on the deck plans.
“A big push during (the study) was to ensure that future major pieces of infrastructure, like bridges,” included additional lanes for high occupancy vehicles and reversible lanes, Brownman said.
Although the preliminary study of the Cortez Bridge revealed that a third track was not feasible, an additional track could be included in the future, said DOT design project director Roxann Lake.
The DOT has decided not to include the third lane in current design plans, as it will increase congestion at the intersection of Cortez Road and Gulf Drive, Abraham said.
“You have to have the surrounding infrastructure in place to support this type of through traffic,” added Ryan Brown, CFO of MPO.