Traffic snarls at Gulf Drive construction zones

An overhead view shows northbound traffic on Gulf Drive slowed to a crawl as vehicles move between barricades and large pieces of equipment. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Along the Holmes Beach/Bradenton Beach border, residents and visitors alike are finding themselves stuck in something reminiscent of winter season traffic with added heavy construction equipment.

The backup is due to work on the Manatee County Force Main Five project in two spots on Gulf Drive, at 28th Street and 26th Street. Construction in the area is expected to last through the end of April, resuming May 1 at Gulf Drive and Avenue C. With traffic patterns shifted to the west side of the street and sections of sidewalks used for vehicular traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians should be especially careful when moving through construction areas.

force main gulf drive crosswalk
Cars drive past a crosswalk stuck in the middle of Gulf Drive construction where traffic is temporarily down to one lane for vehicles. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

While construction is ongoing during the day, flaggers are stationed at both ends of each construction area. These flaggers will stop vehicular traffic to allow bicyclists and pedestrians through the vehicular traffic lanes where sidewalks aren’t available. They also stop traffic to allow pedestrians and cyclists to safely cross Gulf Drive. Temporary crosswalks are located on both sides of each construction area. Cyclists and pedestrians should be very cautious when approaching the construction areas and remain to the side of vehicular traffic until instructed to move by flaggers. If a flagger is not available, pedestrians and cyclists should avoid the area or move through with extreme caution. Without a flagger’s assistance, pedestrians should not attempt to walk in vehicle lanes. Sidewalks on the west side of Gulf Drive remain open except where vehicle lanes shift to the west.

force main gulf drive two bicycles
Vehicles share the road with two bicyclists as they travel northbound on Gulf Drive through the Force Main Five work zone. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Motorists also will experience intermittent temporary lane closures where traffic is reduced for a short time to a single lane. Anyone driving through the area should prepare to experience delays. Speed limits are reduced to 25 miles per hour in the construction zones.

Because the Force Main Five project is a two-year project, construction will be ongoing on different sections of the Island’s primary roadways for the near future. Tina Allen, community outreach specialist on the project, said workers will try to get everyone through construction areas as quickly as possible. Due to the amount of work to be done, she said it’s impossible to plan work around seasonal traffic increases.

“Inevitably, this project presents impacts to someone, somewhere on AMI related to daily construction activities,” Allen said in an email to The Sun. “We understand the impact that a project of this magnitude presents to AMI property owners and visitors, and the project team is working to ensure that our contractors are sensitive and responsive to all expressed concerns, to the extent practical.”