News Section: Local Government
US 41/301 Corridor Charrette Showcases Shared Visions
PALMETTO -- Monday, at the Manatee Convention Center, the MPO hosted the US Hwy 41/301 Corridor/New Bridge Planning Charrette. Local elected officials, engineers, merchants and residents were invited to attend and weigh in on how the stretch of US 41/301, running from Bradenton through the City of Palmetto, might handle future traffic. Recommendations were all over the map. A new bridge and flyover highways were just some of the suggestions.
It seemed like an impossible task: put 50 people from many different professions in a room, all stakeholders with different responsibilities, break them into eight different groups, and have them sit in front of a satellite image tablecloth and map out future traffic. But MPO Executive Director Michael Howe, Planning Manager David Hutchinson, along with the keen expertise from Renaissance Director of Transportation, Whit Blanton, definitely pulled it off without a hitch.
At each table sat a group. Each group discussed a variety of perceptions, focusing on the mobility, accessibility and safety of the future corridor. They were to consider the possibility of a new bridge, how to modify the existing highway and assess any modification of the signal arrangement.
As with all charrettes, a complete examination of past and present surveys set the stage. Blanton presented them and future projections of population and traffic use from all connecting highways. He stated the expectations the Department of Transportation (FDOT) would have, and suggested the groups review the county's thoroughfare plan and the right-of-way needs relative to future growth.
After an hour of methodical mapping by each group, and 15 minutes of setting priorities, the spokesperson for each group stood up and described their suggestions. A lot of good ideas surfaced on how to challenge the task, and yet all groups focused on the same troubled areas.
What had been another long term project, discussed at MPO and commissioner meetings, is now in the first stage of moving toward a reality. It was Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash that pushed the need for the Charrette.
Howe said, "This is where it has to start." The projected time period for the project is the MPO's 2016 - 2020 period. Blanton said, "We are not building this for us, it will be the next generation that will need it.." The meeting concluded with Blanton saying it would take a couple of weeks to examine the findings, and that they would be reviewed at the following available MPO meeting.
It was a wonder how Howe and team put together a three-hour program that vacuumed the experiences, vested interests, perceptions and remedies, from a room full of people, and it appeared it wasn't painful for any of them. Kudos to McClash and the MPO for putting options on the table through the shared visions of the stakeholders.