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Date of Issue: May 12, 2005

Holmes Beach traffic calming, streetscaping committee formed

Faced with citizen complaints about the safety of the crosswalk on Marina Drive between Wachovia Bank and the Island Shopping Center, Holmes Beach city commissioners at their April 26 meeting formed a traffic calming committee to come up with solutions.

Commissioners also authorized Mayor Carol Whitmore to have a qualified traffic engineer study Marina Drive from its intersection with Gulf Drive to 56th Street.

The subject of traffic calming in the area arose several years ago, but it was only recently that the Manatee County Transportation Department furnished the city with a map of some suggested calming measures following a request by Police Chief Jay Romine, the city's traffic engineer.

Public Works Director Joe Duennes said that what the county supplied was "not what we wanted. It's basically disappointing."

The county had suggested allowing parallel parking on the east side of Marina Drive, narrowing the northbound road from Gulf Drive to 56th Street to one lane, and installing some traffic islands with landscaping.

Commissioner Roger Lutz said he needed a "compelling reason" before he would shut down one lane of traffic on Marina Drive, but Whitmore and Duennes reiterated that the county suggestions were just starting points, a "preview" from the county.

"This is a safety issue and just recommendations from Manatee County," noted Whitmore. The commission is certainly not obligated to follow any of the suggestions.

"Well, this is all new to me," responded Lutz.

Actually, said Duennes, the idea for traffic calming in this area started three years ago. "I thought we could widen Marina Drive. The map [the county] gave is not what was asked for. We have other options and plenty of room."

Residents were concerned about the crosswalk, particularly when students from Anna Maria Elementary  walk and bike to and from school. Several "near misses" of school children have been reported and there have been a number of pedestrians struck by vehicles the past few years at or near the crosswalk. The situation is particularly dangerous during the busy winter season, said resident Bonner Joy, who volunteered to serve on the committee.

The crosswalk is also a problem for handicapped people, especially those in a wheelchair.

Romine and City Commissioner Patrick Morton will also be on the committee, which will work closely with the designated traffic engineer to compile options and recommendations to the commission, taking the bike path and school children into consideration.

Romine, as the city's traffic engineer, indicated there might not be a "need" for a committee.

"I'm not in favor of a committee unless we come up with better solutions than what we have now," he said.

Those include eliminating one northbound lane on Marina Drive and making the crosswalk on Marina Drive by Wachovia Bank safer, possibly with lights.

He said he would make a presentation to the commission at its May 24 meeting.