HOLMES BEACH – An eight-foot wide multi-use path is moving out of residential neighborhoods and onto Palm Drive to link up with similar facilities coming south out of Anna Maria.
Commissioners agreed in a 4-1 informal vote to allow City Engineer Lynn Burnett to bring a contract before them for the installation of the multi-use path and widened bicycle lane along the east side of Palm Drive from the city’s northern border with Anna Maria at Crosspoint Fellowship Church to Key Royale Drive. Burnett said the opportunity to move the path from the previously planned route along Marina Drive and 85th Street to the main road happened because the Manatee County force main replacement project along the eastern side of Palm Drive wrapped up much earlier than expected. The sudden opening also allows for the city to save funds on clearing the right of way for the project and mobilizing a construction unit if they choose to use the county’s contractor for the work, which Burnett recommended. When force main work is done on the west side of the road, possibly up to three years from now, she said the same plan could be implemented on that side of the street. Once completed, the Palm Drive corridor facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians would be ready to link up to the long-planned AMI Sun Trail that will go along state roads to link up with facilities on Longboat Key. With facilities being installed on the locally owned sections of the main roads in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, the Sun Trail facility would stretch from end to end on Anna Maria Island, Burnett said, offering cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians a safe place to go that’s not in travel lanes and not through strictly residential neighborhoods.
Commissioner Jim Kihm, who did not agree with the plan, said he’s concerned with putting in such wide sidewalks. He said he would prefer a five-foot concrete path instead of eight-feet.
Commissioners agreed to install a five-foot sidewalk on the east side of Holmes Boulevard and have Burnett find a contractor to repair the existing sidewalks where needed along Marina Drive and 85th Street.
Though commissioners agreed to a five-foot sidewalk in one section of the city, Burnett warned that they would be paying to install a substandard facility. She said the minimum sidewalk width for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance is six-feet while the minimum acceptable width according to the Florida Department of Transportation on state roads is eight-feet. Burnett said she was looking at various surfaces to use for the multi-use path, not just concrete. One involves the installation of plastic honeycombed sections that are filled with sand or rock and are permeable. Burnett said grass could be planted in these but it would require assistance from the public works department to maintain. Once the path is installed, she said she’d like to speak with members of the city’s parks and beautification committee to see if new trees could be planted along the path to help make up for some of the tree canopies that was lost to the force main project.
Commissioners also agreed to the installation of bike path marker signs on the road not only for cyclists but also for pedestrians and motorists using the lanes incorrectly. Part of their charge, Commissioner Pat Morton said, is for Holmes Beach police officers to enforce correct usage of the sidewalks and bicycle lanes by stopping cyclists from traveling in the wrong direction on sidewalks and bicycle lanes, preventing motorists from using bicycle lanes as a passing lane, and stopping people driving golf carts and scooters from using bicycle lanes as travel lanes.
Chief Bill Tokajer said there would be heightened police enforcement along city streets and for people to keep in mind that only non-motorized vehicles, such as bicycles and skateboards, are allowed in the bicycle lane. “Tickets are expensive, folks,” he said.