Residents Concerned with Plan to Widen 59th Street West

A yard sign placed outside of a house to raise awareness of the county's plans to widen the roadway along 59th Street West.
A yard sign placed outside of a house to raise awareness of the county's plans to widen the roadway along 59th Street West.
Dawn Kitterman
BRADENTON — A major roadway project approved by the Manatee County Commission is advancing forward through the design phase, but some residents who live along 59th Street West have concerns with the project’s initial plans which include widening the 59th Street corridor that connects Manatee Avenue to Cortez Road to four lanes.  

The project is one of the county's Capital Improvement Program’s "Big 6" infrastructure projects. 

In September, commissioners approved the 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Plan, which included investing $435 million in transportation projects. The county borrowed $232 million through bonds which will be paid back at a 4.09 percent interest rate over the next 30 years. The bonded debt will be used to accelerate 19 infrastructure projects—including the 59th Street West expansion.

District 3 Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge proposed the project. Van Ostenbridge owns a home in a neighborhood accessed via the roadway. During a June 2021 work session, Van Ostenbridge suggested the county delay the previous board's approved project for 59th Street West and Northwest between Manatee Avenue and Riverview Boulevard in order to accommodate the investment of making 59th between Manatee and Cortez four-lanes. 

In previously adopted CIPs, the approximate 1 mile of 59th roadway between Manatee and Riverview had been identified for safety improvements, including updating the existing two lanes to standard widths and adding sidewalks and street lighting. Area residents who utilize Warner's Bayou Boat Ramp regularly travel the stretch of 59th from Manatee to Riverview to access the boat launch facility (full disclosure, I personally live along this portion of 59th Street). 

There are currently no sidewalks along either side of the road—save for several feet near a bus stop—and no street lights. My own mailbox has been taken out by a vehicle, a tree in a neighbor’s front yard was struck several years ago, a power pole has been hit, and most recently on Christmas Eve night of last year, a pickup truck barreling down the road lost control and plowed into a neighbor's house, crashing through their garage wall and pushing debris into their kitchen. 

The improvements to 59th Street between Manatee and Riverview are to be funded by infrastructure sales tax, and earlier CIPs had the project's construction beginning as soon as October of this year. The most recently adopted CIP, however, pushes the construction start date out until 2025 for the safety improvements to 59th between Manatee and Riverview. 

Along with the improvements project for 59th Street between Manatee and Riverview, the previous CIP also included two lesser improvement projects for 59th Street West between Cortez and Manatee at 33rd Ave Drive West and Sun Chase Apartments. The previously planned projects included updating the existing two lanes and adding sidewalks and lighting. The lesser-scope projects were projected to cost approximately $10 million combined to be funded by infrastructure sales tax. With the commission's decision to widen all of 59th Street West from Manatee to Cortez, both projects' improvements will now be included within the scope of the more extensive 59th improvement. 

Last year, commissioners authorized staff to contract with consultant Kimley Horn and Associates, Inc to prepare a Project Development and Corridor Study Report to evaluate options for widening the roadway along 59th Street West between Manatee and Cortez to four lanes. In April 2022, the recommended option (referred to as alternative two) was approved by the board.

The project is projected to cost just over $31 million dollars, with nearly $26 million of that funded by debt proceeds. The initial design plan calls for four lanes with a center turn lane and/or medians from Cortez Road to Manatee Ave, upgraded pedestrian and bicycle facilities, a roundabout at the intersection of 17th Avenue and 59th Street West (currently a traffic light intersection north of Blake Hospital), as well as upgraded street lighting and traffic signals. The project’s purpose is to improve the roadway to accommodate future growth while improving safety. 

Manatee County CIP project card for 59th Street West between Manatee and Cortez. Click HERE to access a larger version of this card. 

Despite the planned improvements, some homeowners along 59th Street do not agree the roadway needs such extensive improvements and are concerned about the project’s impacts on residents' quality of life as well as property values. 

Kerri Wilson, who created a Facebook group called Concerned Citizens of 59th Street West, told TBT, while she is not entirely against some improvements to the 59th Street West corridor, she is very concerned by the proposed scope of the approved project—including making the roadway into four lanes. 

"I would be happy with a multi-modal lane as an improvement," Wilson explained in an email. "Lengthening of a left-turn lane into Sugg Middle School would also be a good improvement," she added. 

A significant concern of Wilson’s is the direct impact on her home given its driveway entrance is on 59th, "The expansion could impact access to my garage and decrease parking spaces. I will also lose front yard space and have the four-lane road very near my house." 

Wilson worries that the changes will not only affect her quality of life, but the value of her property. She wrote,  "This house was carefully chosen for its location for several reasons, and my preference is to not have to move because of how it will change." 

Resident Laurie Kieffer agrees with her neighbor. Kieffer told TBT in an email that she has spent a significant amount of time reading over the Project Development and Corridor Study Report produced by Kimley and Horn. Although Kieffer's house is not directly along 59th Street West—a few doors down on a side street—her daughter’s house is one of the properties originally targeted for a "total take" by the county. 

An initial project plan approved by the board in the Spring called for a 93-foot right-side widening alignment requiring the acquisition of seven acres of right-a-way affecting 25 parcels, as well as seven "total takes." 

A "total take" means the county would need to negotiate to purchase the property owner’s entire property, or if agreeable terms could not be found, would use eminent domain to acquire the needed land for the project. 

Kieffer told TBT that she and others began contacting county staff about the project last month, especially about the homes that were targeted to be taken—like her daughter's. Through communication, the county has since adjusted the alignment to spare the seven parcels from a total take. 

Kieffer said she was unaware of the county’s intention to expand 59th Street and other residents who spoke with TBT also reported never having received any letters or communications from the county about the project. Wilson said she was made aware of the project by a law firm that sent a letter offering its services to residents identified from the published plans as likely to need representation in negotiations with the county over compensation for land. 

Within the first four pages of the report cited by Kieffer, it stated, "Public involvement was not conducted during this study due to an abbreviated schedule. A public meeting is recommended during the design phase."

Kieffer told TBT she would have expected earlier communication from the county, but said that it is a relief to her daughter and other residents whose homes might have been "taken" to now have confirmation that this part of the plan has been adjusted. 

Kieffer believes the corridor study helps to confirm that the construction of four lanes along the entire length of 59th Street is not needed and that the cost (both financial and in impact to private property) might not be worth the benefit. 

The nearly 600-page technical report includes data analysis of the current Level of Service (LOS) during peak hours, intersection performance, crash data, and future projected traffic service along 59th with and without four lanes. 

The report included data showing that 59th Street is currently operating at a level of service of "D" or "F" across its analyzed segments. The county’s comprehensive plan adopts a LOS target score of "D" or better, and an "F" identifies poor service. The report’s future traffic projections show the corridor scoring a LOS of "F" across all segments without any improvements. 

The intersections analyzed scored better, at "C" or above with the exception of the intersection of Manatee Ave at 59th which scored an "F"—currently and projected. 

"Due to congestion on Manatee Avenue, the intersection of Manatee Avenue and 59th Street is anticipated to operate at LOS F under Opening Year 2025 and Design Year 2045 conditions, even if 59th Street is widened," the report concluded. 

Kieffer believes there is a potential that widening 59th Street to four lanes might lead to more traffic and worse performance at both of 59th Street’s intersections at Manatee Ave and Cortez. According to the report, these major intersections cannot be addressed by the county without the involvement of FDOT.

Kieffer also pointed out that the intersection of 17th Avenue and 59th which is planned to be made a roundabout, scored a LOS of "B" in the report. 

"The study shows no intersection deficiencies at that intersection as it exists now," Kieffer explained to TBT in an email, "I question the need and effectiveness of a roundabout especially since it is only a few blocks away from both a fire station and a hospital with ambulances and fire trucks having to navigate that." 

Neighbors who spoke to TBT agreed with Kieffer about the addition of a roundabout. 

Candace Bennington, whose home is along 59th Street West, said she is worried about traffic speed and proximity to her home if 59th is widened to four lanes. She is also concerned about increased traffic noise and pollution. 

"I don’t know what the noise decibel would be," Bennington wrote in an email to TBT, "but being closer to our houses would increase the volume—especially from ambulances and firetrucks which already pass our homes regularly." 

Bennington also expressed confusion about the report's projected traffic volume in the future, pointing out that 59th Street ends at a water tower at Cortez Road. Because of the water tower, Bennington believes it is unlikely 59th Street would ever be a connector such as 75th Street West. 

"Development on the other side of Cortez wouldn't have direct access to this improvement given the water tower's location," she wrote. 

All three of the women agreed that in their experiences 59th Street does not see "backups" in traffic. They admit traffic is slowed to 20 mph during school hours outside in the area around Sugg Middle School, but they argue adding lanes will not change that.

"The school traffic is twice a day, it will take children longer to cross four lanes than two lanes. So the traffic will actually have to wait longer," Bennington suggested. 

Concerning safety on the roadway, Kieffer said she is not convinced a significant safety issue currently exists along 59th based on crash data provided in the corridor study report. 

"The study's own Crash Analysis is included in the report," Kieffer wrote before quoting directly from the report. "The annual crash frequency generally fell during the study period, with 54 crashes reported in 2016 and 27 crashes reported in 2020."

"This does not appear to show an increasing safety risk, but improving conditions over the years," Kieffer concluded. 

A data table is provided in the Project Development and Corridor Study Report for the widening 59th Street West. To view the entire report, click here.

TBT reached out to Manatee County Public Works Strategic Affairs Manager Ogden Clark to inquire about the project. In an email, Clark wrote that while the project is likely to have some impacts on all properties along 59th Street between Cortez Road and Manatee Avenue, some of the impacts (traffic delays, detours, and construction noise) will be temporary during the build phase. Residents up and down 59th may see permanent changes with county-owned right-of-ways Clark explained, but said it is too soon in the design phase to know how much change to expect and to which parcels. 

Concerning communication from the county, Clark confirmed that no letters had yet been sent to residents and businesses who will be impacted by the project, but that is in large part due to the fact that the design is ongoing and in an early stage. Clark also confirmed there has been an adjustment to the project's alignment to spare the previously identified "total takes" to complete the project. 

"We are currently at the 30 percent of the design phase and expect to be at the 60 percent by the middle of December," Clark wrote in an email to TBT. "Our current design scope shows full acquisitions are required, but we fully expect the updated plan to remove the need for ALL whole parcel takes." 

Clark included, "The BoCC will need to approve the new alignments if the updated plans change elements of the alignment that was approved by the board in the Spring."

The county is planning outreach meetings for early 2023 when the design will have reached 60 percent of the design phase and plans are available for residents to review and provide feedback. Clark said the community meetings are anticipated to be scheduled sometime in late January or early-February next year. 

Members of the Concerned Citizens of 59th Street West Facebook group told TBT they look forward to attending the meetings. Wilson, Bennington, and Kieffer also hope that neighbors along 59th Street and the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses will also attend the meetings.

Kieffer told TBT that she was unsure how many property owners are aware of the project coming to 59th, so she personally sent out 327 letters to her neighbors to inform them about the planned changes to the roadway.

"I hope that residents show up to the public meeting that is supposed to be held after the first of the year, whether they are for or against the expansion," said Bennington. "I just want to see citizens participating in the discussion and having a say in what improvements might come to 59th Street." 

To access the county's list of projects, including the "Big 6" projects, visit www.mymanatee.org/departments/financial_management/capital_improvement_program. or click here to go directly to the county's Projects Dashboard. 

Dawn Kitterman is a staff reporter for The Bradenton Times. She covers local government and entertainment news. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Reader Comments
George Lakon
DEC 05, 2022  •  developers get their way with County commissioners. Going to board meetings and protesting is the only option
Rose
NOV 22, 2022  •  As long as keep expanding for newcomers, the streets have to keep widening to hold the traffic. I wished Bradenton stayed a sleepy beach town, but they keep building and building.
Mike Meehan
NOV 20, 2022  •  On 59th St, I favor continuous sidewalks between Riverview Boulevard and Cortez Road. If asked for a priority, I would say a sidewalk between Manatee Avenue and Riverview should be a more easily accomplished first priority.
barb
NOV 20, 2022  •  I drive 59th St regularly at different times of the day and it rarely has heavy traffic. This is a waste of taxpayer's money from the bunch that claims "fiscal responsibility". What developer will benefit from this expenditure? This is not a problem that needs fixing. The sidewalks could easily be widened to make bike riding safer.
Jim
NOV 20, 2022  •  Seems to me that this roadway expansion would make traffic problems even worse than they already are. With the Manatee BCC now totally controlled by MAGA, is there any way to stop this madness?
Randy Johnson
NOV 20, 2022  •  I live on 59th for 23 years and I see no need for 4 lanes plus a raised median that makes u have to turn right and go make a U Turn Quit borrowing money for infrastructure that is not needed
Laurie Kieffer
NOV 20, 2022  •  I encourage anyone who hasn’t travelled on 59th St. to do so. One would experience the reasonably light traffic. An exception is the intersection at Manatee Ave. And the Study explains that a widening of 59th St. would NOT improve that intersection. There are numerous homes ON 59th St., facing 59th St. Adding additional lanes to bring it to a 4-lane road would undoubtedly devaluate those properties. Consider what has happened over time to homes that existed on Manatee Ave. W. They have all had to transition to business properties or be removed completely to become new commercial property. That should not be what is in future for 59th St.
IRENE RYAN
NOV 20, 2022  •  I couldn't care less where Van Osterberg lives, that does not justify the waste of OUR tax dollars AND adding debt by borrowing money to fund an unneeded project! It's NOT just 59th St W., it's our BOCC that will be the ruination of any area with the wasteful spending for traffic circles ALL over where they are NOT needed! In 59th St W cases, they will call for immanent domain and take the rights away from people and take their property line to make a FOUR lane road!? People here have NO CLUE on how to drive to begin with, they surely have NO CLUE on how to drive through a traffic circle!And this project includes borrowing monies we do NOT have to make 59th St W a FOUR lane road from Manatee all the way to Cortez! Can you imagine the mess and the traffic woes of the construction time within the area of the hospital and school and GT Bray! Plain stupidity and unneeded wasteful spending when the BOCC has already caused this cluster of traffic with IMG and all the development off Cortez Rd W and El Conquistador Pkwy! We the people need our voices heard, perhaps the newly elected commissioners will stand for us now!
NOV 20, 2022  •  A roundabout for ambulances trying to get to Blake???
Bill
NOV 20, 2022  •  This is long overdue. None of the roads in West Bradenton were designed for the volume they carry today. Ambulances have to get to Blake quickly. The concern of 59th St homeowners, though, is understandable. They might be allowed a variance to enable concrete walls to be constructed along the new sidewalk, enabling more privacy, safety, and noise reduction. This is done in many other countries and in some areas of California. The county should cover the cost.
Cat L
NOV 20, 2022  •  Dunning Krueger is in charge of Manatee county. Imagine what these jack-holes could do if they ACTUALLY had the well-being of their constituents in mind...
Lester
NOV 20, 2022  •  Does anyone remember the “Pray for me, I drive on 59th Street “ campaign? My neighbor had that bumper sticker on her car fro years! The whole street was probably 35’ wide with a drainage ditch/canal running alongside. Good times in the MC.
Alene Gauthier
NOV 20, 2022  •  Could we use some of that money FIRST to install speed bumps on 47th Street West, between Manatee and Riverview ? There are so many trucks and cars who speed, REALLY speed down this RESIDENTIAL road trying to be first to get to Riverview.
Diana
NOV 20, 2022  •  We live in a neighborhood adjoining 59th Street.  I regularly watch commission meetings an have never heard any discussion on this item.   I have heard discussion on the poor design that will be at 43rd and Manatee where we are improving an intersection with tax payer dollars to accommodate a business. It is very unclear to residents how this businesses traffic will affect the neighborhoods nearby and we have no idea how the Miller school traffic will be added to this mess even after looking at the plans.  I have heard discussion on making 75 Street 4 lane but nothing about 59th Street.  The county does nothing to inform the residents.  I don't understand the need to exclude the residents from the conversation.  If you are changing 59th Street to a 4 lane why would you put a roundabout at 17th? Where is the center lane going?  You certainly are not seeing people making a U-turn at this intersection. The majority of the traffic is going north and south with very few people going east and west.  If you are encouraging the traffic to go east and west you are encouraging this traffic into more neighborhoods and onto residential streets especially 51 street which can not handle more traffic.  Residents would like a workshop for a better understanding.
HK
NOV 20, 2022  •  Why are we borrowing tens of millions to fix things that aren't broke while pushing off needed safety improvements to other areas???
Planner On Call
NOV 20, 2022  •  We need to find a better way to improve our infrastructure without displacing residents. Plan for people - not vehicles.


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