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Local Government Manatee and Palmetto Officials Collide on Intersection


BRADENTON --  After Tuesday's Council of Governments meeting at the Manatee Civic Center, Manatee County Commissioners met with City of Palmetto Commissioners to discuss one issue -- 7th Street East and U.S. 301. It turned out to be much more eventful than any of them likely anticipated. 

The dialogue was centered on whether 7th Street East should connect to Haben Boulevard by crossing U.S. 301 just north of the Manatee Convention and Civic Center. Recent renovations to the facility have some commissioners once more discussing the possibility of a convention hotel. 

Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes sent a letter to the City of Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, requesting consideration be made to align the intersection so a connection to Haben Boulevard could be made. Currently, there is a long-standing blinking light there, and a vacant lot on the east side of U.S. 301. The connection is required for the light to become fully functional.

Mayor Bryant found the letter a little too suggestive, saying, "It implies you have been waiting for us, and we have brought up the issue a number of times." Most of the City of Palmetto commissioners were there and were all in solidarity with the mayor. 

Currently, the intersection only has 7th Street East going in the direction of West from U.S. 301. At that intersection is a blinking light that many feel is confusing and dangerous. There is a lot of history in the story of the blinking light. When now Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle was Mayor of Palmetto, he put the light at that location in anticipation to have a full four-way intersection and a hotel. Unfortunately, the intersection did not meet with FDOT compliance for a red/yellow/green traffic light signal, so it had to be left as a blinking yellow "caution" light. Critics pointed out that constructing the light at such a cost, ahead of determining its viability, was unwise and possibly illegal.

Most of the Manatee County Commissioners wanted to just bury the bone and move on to figure out whether Palmetto officials wanted to go forward with the intersection, all these years later. Critics of the idea claim a complete refiguring to the access of the convention center would have many consequences. In Hayes' letter, she suggest the $6 million in renovations to the center came with a vision that the intersection and hotel would follow, but not all of the stakeholders agree. 

With the current budget cuts, money for such an endeavor would be difficult to find. The bridge south of the center, which connects to downtown Bradenton, is in much need of attention and the question of who will pay for the modifications needed for safety purposes are still unanswered. There was no doubt that neither Manatee nor Palmetto wanted to be behind the suggestion to go forward, and there for cough up the majority of funds for the project.

The meeting got quite contentious at times and a bit of cooling down came when Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash said, "The 'Charette' that was agreed upon at the MPO meeting will answer many of these questions."

That would be a feasibility study to the section of U.S. 301 where the intersection, the convention center and the troubled 301 bridge all are connected. 

The innuendos and rather harsh reply exchanges then took a break. Agreement to move forward with the whole undecided venture was put into low gear and discussion will continue the next time they meet. 


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