FDOT plans Gulf Drive corridor study

FDOT plans Gulf Drive corridor study
The portion of Gulf Drive located in Anna Maria is owned and maintained by the city. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The city commission will decide whether the Anna Maria-owned portion of Gulf Drive will be included in a $1.5 million Island-wide Gulf Drive corridor study.

The commission is expected to make its decision on Thursday, May 25.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Engineer/Design Manager Craig Fox presented the proposed study during the May 8 Island Transportation Planning Organization (ITPO) meeting held at Anna Maria City Hall.

FDOT will fund the Gulf Drive corridor study, which is expected to begin in November and take a maximum of two years to complete. Fox said the study area will extend along the entire portion of Gulf Drive/State Road 789 in Bradenton Beach, from the Longboat Pass Bridge to the Bradenton Beach/Holmes Beach border.

In Holmes Beach, the study will continue along East Bay Drive to the Manatee Avenue intersection. The study area continues from the Manatee Avenue/Gulf Drive intersection and along Gulf Drive through Holmes Beach to the Gulf Drive/Palm Drive intersection. The study then continues along Gulf Drive to the Holmes Beach/Anna Maria border. The study area in Holmes Beach will not include Marina Drive or the portion of Gulf Drive between Walgreens and the West Coast Surf Shop. The Anna Maria commission is to decide if the study continues along Gulf Drive to Pine Avenue.

Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Executive Director David Hutchinson said the cities of Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach requested the study and FDOT decided to include the Anna Maria portion of Gulf Drive as well.

Fox said the cities can use the study results to pursue state and federal funds to implement the potential street and right-of-way improvements identified in the study.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy reminded Cox that the city, not the state, owns the portion of Gulf Drive located in Anna Maria and has owned it since the state turned over ownership and maintenance of that road in the early 1970s. Murphy said the city has already studied and improved the city’s portion of the road.

Murphy asked Cox if the city can opt out of the study. Cox said the city can.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said the goal is to come up with a consistent design that meets FDOT’s basic complete street standards which include sidewalks, multi-use trails, crosswalks and more.

“This complete streets study is clearly about safety and mobility, and having this information so funding can hopefully follow to move forward and do something,” Chappie said.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Dan Diggins asked why Marina Drive is not included in the study area. He was told safety and drainage improvements have already been made there.

Commission briefed

During the May 15 city commission meeting, Murphy briefed the commissioners about the proposed study. He said he received the latest version of FDOT’s 46-page scope of services document the previous evening and would send it to them. Murphy asked the commissioners to review the proposed study for further discussion and decision-making on Thursday, May 25.

The FDOT document is titled “Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Studies Barrier Island Complete Streets Improvements.” It lists two main project objectives – implementing recommendations made in the previously completed Barrier Island Traffic Study and reducing flooding along the Gulf Drive/SR 789 corridor.

Murphy told the commission he’s not a big fan of these types of studies and he’s seen three or four studies done on the Island in the past that have not yet resulted in any significant follow-up action.

In 2014-15, the three Island cities and Manatee County partnered on a $125,000 Island-wide Urban Land Institute study which to date has not produced any significant study-related actions.

Murphy referenced the Sarasota-Manatee Barrier Island Traffic Study initiated in 2016 and completed in 2020 that recommends extending the Manatee Avenue right turn lane near the Manatee Avenue/Gulf Drive intersection, which has not happened yet.

According to the traffic study-related phase 2 report dated 2018 and posted at the MPO website, FDOT plans to include the Manatee Avenue right turn lane extension as part of the future Anna Maria Bridge replacement project that currently has no announced start date.

When contacted after he reviewed the FDOT plans, Murphy said, “It’s up to our city commission to decide if the city wants this to go forward. I have thought all along that it was odd for FDOT to come into a city and do a study without first at least discussing what is being studied and why. I am comfortable that we now have it under control and the commission will make that decision Thursday night.”