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Date of Issue: April 01, 2009

DOT reviews East Bay, Manatee signal

The Florida Department of Transportation is signaling a change ahead for the busy intersection at East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue.

The DOT plans to install mast arms at the intersection that can support heavier signal equipment and “split phase” the traffic signal. Split-phase signals display the left-turn arrow and circular greens in one direction, then cuts both of those off, and displays the left-turn arrow and circular greens for the opposite direction.

The decision follows a series of concerns raised by Holmes Beach residents and the Holmes Beach Police Department about the intersection.

Motorists traveling north on East Bay Drive who turn left onto Manatee Avenue are supposed to yield to motorists exiting Westbay Cove North to travel south on East Bay.

However, Westbay Cove residents have said that too often the northbound motorists fail to yield.

Westbay resident Molly McCartney has been most vocal with her concerns.

McCartney serves as vice chair of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity committee, and has asked the committee for a resolution calling on the DOT to take corrective action. The Palma Sola group is an advisory body on improvements to Manatee Avenue from 75th Street West to the intersection.

McCartney also has lobbied for support from the Holmes Beach Police Department.  HBPD patrols the intersection, but the Florida Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over the traffic light at the location.

McCartney said drivers traveling south on East Bay Drive have to play “chicken.”

She has suggested that motorists turning left onto Manatee Avenue be held back about 15 seconds.

McCartney has not been the only complainant.

Recently, Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine asked the county public works traffic signal section and the DOT what could be done.

The DOT has indicated a reluctance to simply delay northbound traffic, which consists of 115 to 260 vehicles per hour compared to the far less nine to 17 southbound vehicles per hour exiting from Westbay Cove.

However, the DOT is looking at signal improvements that may take place this year, depending on funding availability or coincide with other improvements on East Bay Drive, including street resurfacing, in fiscal 2010.

The split-phase signal operation would be similar to the operation installed during the rehabilitation of the Anna Maria Island Bridge. That system was taken down when the bridge reopened because it was only a temporary fix, according to DOT spokesperson Cindy Clemmons-Adente.

For the long-term, new equipment, specifically the new mast arms, are needed.

The DOT could provide the equipment this year, but does not have the funding for installation. So state officials are discussing with county officials whether Manatee County can assist with costs this fiscal year.

If not, Clemmons-Adente said the state would move forward with a signal change in fiscal 2010.