by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer, East County Observer

A Lakewood Ranch intersection that has been the site of fatal car accidents and traffic jams leaving Premier Sports Campus will soon receive a traffic light ahead of schedule.

The Manatee County Commission unanimously approved an agreement March 23 with Bradenton-based electrical contractors MSB Services to construct a temporary traffic signal where State Road 70 intersects with Post Boulevard and Greenbrook Boulevard. The $299,000 project is scheduled for completion in four months and will be funded by impact fees and gas taxes.

Public Works Strategic Affairs Manager Ogden Clark III said there are multiple reasons Manatee County decided a light was warranted at the intersection at a sooner date. Post Boulevard is used as an entrance to Premier Sports Campus and a signal will help prevent traffic backup caused by large events.

Increased development in the area has put stress on the intersection. The intersection with Post and Greenbrook boulevards was specifically chosen because intersections further east on State Road 70 are scheduled for future roundabouts, not traffic signals.

Aaron Keller, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said the department no longer has the ability to research crash data from specific geographic locations because of the end of a contract with research company LexisNexis.

Lakewood Ranch residents Sandy Williams and Tony Llamas, with his daughter, Meghan Llamas, worry about safety at the intersection of Post/Greenbrook boulevards at State Road 70. File photo.

However, there were three deaths at the intersection in 2018 alone. There were 29 crashes and 17 injuries at the intersection from 2011 to 2015, according to an FDOT study.

Using MSB Services to construct the signal will hasten its installation by almost a year compared with an estimated 12 to 14 months if the county’s Public Works Department had to design and obtain permitting from the Florida Department of Transportation and then ask for and review bids from various companies.

A Manatee County document said MSB Services was chosen “based on its past performance and ability to quickly design and obtain FDOT permitting for the construction of a temporary signal.”

MSB Services was used to build a temporary signal at S.R. 70 and White Eagle Boulevard, and one at U.S. Route 301 and Canal Road.

The county often uses MSB Services for projects it wants to complete quickly through an expedited process known as a “design build,” according to Clark. When a project costs less than $300,000, the county can pass it on to a contractor under the stipulation MSB Services, in this case, designs and builds everything itself.

Eventually, the temporary signal will be replaced by a permanent one as part of a $39.5 million project to widen State Road 70 from Lorraine Road to County Road 675, scheduled to begin in summer 2023. FDOT spokesperson Brian Rick said construction will take two years or a little more, meaning 2025 is targeted for completion.

The cost of the total project isn’t broken down by intersection. However, Rick said permanent signals typically cost $500,000 to $1 million to build and install, depending on factors such as the number of lanes, the size and number of mast arms, the number of signals and intersection improvements.

Roundabouts are planned for three intersections east of Post and Greenbrook boulevards. However, a roundabout isn’t feasible where S.R. 70 meets Post and Greenbrook boulevards because S.R. 70 will be widened to six lanes through the intersection and eastward.