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Commissioners hear about ATMS plans, CRA ideas


BRADENTON - To drivers battling traffic, it may not be apparent, but things will be improving on the road soon.

That was County Administrator Ed Hunzeker's message to county commissioners at their workshop Thursday afternoon, as they received an update on the Automated Transportation Management System. (Click here to see the slideshow that was presented.)

Sage Kamiya, the county's traffic engineer, said it's about using technology to make travel better.

Using the technology that's being installed, he said, they'll be able to see incidents and change the timing of traffic lights.

"We're going to get a lot of data back," Kamiya said.

This will also improve the travel and response times for the Emergency Management people.

Highlights of the first phase of the program, of which the city of Bradenton is a part, include 143 traffic signals, 38 monitoring cameras, 70 miles of fiber signal communication and more. Phase II, funded through stimulus money, includes the city of Palmetto and has 88 traffic signals, 20 monitoring cameras, 44 miles of fiber signal communication and a connection to Sarasota.

Unfunded items include 13 remote traffic signals without communication, nine signals with limited communication a connection to the Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Management Signal Preemption.

Commissioner Donna Hayes said she was happy to see the progress.

"We've been talking about this for a long time, so I'm glad to see this finally happening," she said.

Talking about the CRAs

Commissioners next heard a presentation on the Community Redevelopment Areas and the possibilities for expansion of the current CRAs or even new CRAs that could be established. (See the proposed CRA map.)

Possible expansions include making the DeSoto Mall part of a CRA, putting the commercial area in a corridor across from the mall in a CRA, creating a segment to connect the two CRAs, putting an area southeast of Cortez Road in a CRA and making a part of U.S. 41 into a CRA.

The idea, Hunzeker said, would be to encourage business relocations, but Commissioner Larry Bustle expressed some concern about the effect on the county budget and taking money away from the budget. "How do you handle that?" he asked.

"Delicately," Hunzeker said. "We might have spent a disproportionate amount of county revenue on growth items at the expense of neighborhoods. CRAs distract from the county's revenue. It's a delicate step as we go through the money."

Commissioner Ron Getman said he wanted to see Bayshore Gardens included in a CRA, adding that the south U.S. 41 area definitely needs work. Hayes said she wanted to see the mall in a CRA. Hunzeker said it might be possible if there was one big CRA.

Commissioner John Chappie said he liked the idea of expanding the CRA. "The only question and concern I have is one CRA versus two," he said, noting that the north and south ends of the county are two different neighborhoods and could create more problems.

There's no need to make a decision right away, Hunzeker told the commissioners, but it will come back soon.


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