Dan­ger­ous traf­fic on 70 wor­ries res­i­dents

The Bradenton Herald - - Front Page - BY JAMES A. JONES JR. ja­jones1@braden­ton.com

It’s an an­ti­quated high­way car­ry­ing ever-grow­ing and dan­ger­ous 21st-cen­tury traf­fic.

That’s the view of Myakka Fire Chief Danny Cac­chiotti of a stretch of two-lane State Road 70 be­tween Lor­raine Road at Lake­wood Ranch and Myakka City.

Par­tic­u­larly the por­tion of the high­way that he can see from the fire sta­tion at 26636 S.R. 70, where Verna Bethany Road en­ters from the north and Verna Road en­ters from the south.

“Over the past year we have had eight ac­ci­dents here. There were two very se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents at the in­ter­sec­tion with Verna Bethany Road in the last two weeks, and down here at Verna Road, there were two se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents in the past two months,” Cac­chiotti said as large trucks roared past on S.R. 70.

Vanessa Baugh, chair of the Sara­sota/Mana­tee Plan­ning Or­ga­ni­za­tion, raised the is­sue Thurs­day at the monthly MPO meet­ing at Lake­wood Ranch.

With new neigh­bor­hoods such as Polo Run, Lake­wood Na­tional Golf and Coun­try Club, and Del Webb along S.R. 70, speed­ing traf­fic has be­come a big is­sue.

“We have had sev­eral fa­tal­i­ties at Verna Road and State Road 70, and there is only one traf­fic light from Lor­raine Road to Myakka City,” Baugh said. “Maybe we should have a traf­fic sig­nal at Verna Road. We have a lot of growth, and it is a def­i­nite is­sue.”

State Road 64 and State Road 70 un­til re­cently were ru­ral roads serv­ing a ru­ral pop­u­la­tion, MPO board mem­ber Betsy Benac said.

“Peo­ple have to change their be­hav­ior in the way that they drive,” Benac said, re­fer­ring to three round­abouts that are planned for S.R. 64.

The Mana­tee County Com­mis­sion has re­quested the Florida High­way Pa­trol step up its pa­trols on S.R. 70 and S. R. 64.

In a let­ter dated Oct. 23, the county com­mis­sion wrote the

FHP say­ing that in Septem­ber, two teenagers were trag­i­cally killed and a 12-year-old se­ri­ously in­jured in an ac­ci­dent at State Road 64 and Pope Road.

“This past week­end a 30-year-old man was killed by a drunk driver on S.R. 64 near Verna Bethany Road,” County Com­mis­sion Chair Priscilla Whisenant Trace wrote.

“As the lead law en­force­ment agency along state roads, we re­spect­fully ask the Florida High­way Pa­trol to in­crease your trooper pres­ence along State Roads 64 and 70, east of In­ter­state 75. Please have your of­fi­cers en­force the speed lim­its to slow traf­fic and avoid se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents,” Whisenant wrote.

Com­pli­cat­ing the S.R. 70 is­sue is that much of it is two lanes across the state. More peo­ple are us­ing it as an al­ter­na­tive to In­ter­state 4, said David Hutchin­son, MPO ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. There are mul­ti­ple MPOs and Florida Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion dis­tricts in the path of S.R. 70.

FDOT al­ready had plans to widen State Road 70 from two lanes to four lanes be­tween Lor­raine Road and County Road 675, but with all the growth in the area, an ex­pan­sion to six lanes is now en­vi­sioned, said FDOT com­mu­nity li­ai­son Jesten Abra­ham.

A neigh­bor­hood meet­ing to dis­cuss the pro­posed widen­ing of S.R. 70 is planned for 5-7 p.m. Dec. 18 at Risen Sav­ior Lutheran Church, 14605 59th Ave. E., Abra­ham said.

Con­struc­tion is ten­ta­tively sched­uled to be­gin in 2023, but that is sub­ject to change, Abra­ham said.

In other busi­ness at Thurs­day’s MPO meet­ing, Pal­metto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant asked for an up­date on when work on the Green Bridge be­tween Pal­metto and Braden­ton will be com­pleted.

FDOT closed one of the south­bound lanes in Septem­ber to widen the pedes­trian walk­way, caus­ing long traf­fic back-ups into Pal­metto.

Al­bert Rosen­stein, an FDOT staff mem­ber who at­tended Thurs­day’s meet­ing, said both south­bound lanes should be open be­fore Christ­mas.

The MPO’s top pri­or­ity is re­place­ment of the DeSoto Bridge and build­ing in­creased traf­fic ca­pac­ity be­tween Pal­metto and Braden­ton.

A pro­posed fly­over, or el­e­vated bridge re­place­ment, has aroused the ire of neigh­bors who say it would di­vide neigh­bor­hoods, be an eye­sore and hurt prop­erty val­ues.

FDOT is con­duct­ing a project de­vel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­ment study as it tries to eval­u­ate its op­tions.

Us­ing cell­phone data, traf­fic engi­neers have been able to de­ter­mine that one-third of the traf­fic over the DeSoto Bridge is re­gional in na­ture, rather than lo­cal.

Leigh Holt, a plan­ner for MPO, said Blue­tooth data can help traf­fic engi­neers bet­ter un­der­stand where traf­fic orig­i­nates, where it is headed, its fre­quency and the du­ra­tion of trips.

That can be valu­able in mass-tran­sit plan­ning, as well as in de­sign­ing road net­works.

JAMES A. JONES JR. ja­jones1@braden­ton.com

The six-lane por­tion of State Road 70 ends at Lor­raine Road, and it be­comes a pri­mar­ily two-lane road through Myakka City.

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