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Date of Issue: February 02, 2006

Plans proceeding for Gulf Drive improvements in Bradenton Beach

landscape pic
Here's the plans
Mitch McKnight with the engineering firm Wilson Miller unveiled plans for improvements to Gulf Drive in the "downtown" section of Bradenton Beach last week. Islander Photo: Paul Roat

Preliminary plans have been presented and partially approved by the Florida Department of Transportation for improvements to Gulf Drive in the business district of Bradenton Beach.

Mitch McKnight, with the engineering firm Wilson Miller, is the consultant hired by the city to oversee the streetscape improvements. He provided the scenic highway committee with a report on the status of the project last week.

Among the improvements will be extensive landscaping and sidewalks from Cortez Road to Fifth Street South. Brick crosswalks across Gulf Drive were vetoed by the DOT, McKnight said, but other material may meet with the agency’s approval. Brick crosswalks will be created on side streets flanking the road, he said, adding that he hoped to convince state officials to allow a crosswalk at Fifth Street South.

Much of the sidewalk work will entail "filling in the gaps" of existing paths, he said, and the sidewalks will flow along both the east and west sides of the road.

Some easements need to be obtained for the sidewalk work, McKnight said.

And one area of the sidewalk, on the east side of Gulf Drive just south of city hall, will hug the buildings rather than run adjacent to the road to allow continued parking for the shell shop, restaurant and ice cream parlor in the plaza.

One of the more notable changes to the roadbed will involve elevating the central portion of the roundabout at Bridge Street. McKnight said many motorists do not slow and circle at the intersection, opting instead to drive across the central circle. Elevating that circle by 3 inches will cause the roundabout to function as designed — as a traffic-calming feature.

"It will encourage passenger vehicles to go around, not through, the roundabout," McKnight said.

Scenic highway committee members had hoped to have in-pavement flashing lights to allow motorists to be aware of pedestrians wishing to cross the road. McKnight said the DOT officials vetoed the flashing in-pavement features, but were supportive of lighted, flashing "Yield" signage through the area.

Three covered trolley stops will also be erected at city hall, both east and west sides, as well as somewhere between Fifth and Fourth streets south, he said.

One of the more interesting features of the project will be beachfront amenities at Fourth Street South and Bridge Street. Handicapped parking spaces will be created, as well as installation of showers and drinking fountains at those spots. A landscaped pathway leading to the beach will also be created at Third Street South.

McKnight said he hoped to have the plans completed and submitted to the DOT for final approval shortly, and work should begin by this summer pending final approvals by the state and city commissioners.