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Town talks traffic help, crosswalks at meeting

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Engineer LK Namdam from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) stood before the Longboat Commission last week and was peppered with questions about the efficacy of the St. Armands pedestrian crossing guards, the Longboat Key crosswalks and overall traffic levels.

The meeting opened with the FDOT engineer telling the town that it would soon have increased signage on the recently installed crosswalks on Gulf of Mexico Drive giving drivers plenty of notice to protect pedestrians.

Namdam then told the Commission of the next crosswalk that will be installed across GMD at Northshore Road on the northern tip of the Key. He explained that the design includes extending the existing sidewalk on the east side of GMD from Broadway north to connect with the future crosswalk. The contractor will then construct a sidewalk on the west side of the crosswalk north to the Longboat Pass Bridge which has a sidewalk that connects to Anna Maria.

The project is out to bid, but Town Manager Dave Bullock wanted the Commission to know exactly what is coming.

Mayor Jack Duncan suggested that drivers approaching at 45 m.p.h., the current speed allowed on Gulf of Mexico Drive, may be excessive.

“When I see people crossing GMD, 60% have three little kids, a couple of chairs and beach balls, and at 45 MPH it is very difficult for me to slow down. Remember, the average age is 70 plus years, and people are not running across the street,” said Duncan.

Duncan suggested that the FDOT consider the posted speed limit when it evaluates how effective the crosswalks are.

The Namdam told Longboat Key News that lowering speed limits on roads such as Gulf of Mexico Drive generally makes a  more dangerous situation. He explained that roads ideally reflect in the speed limit the rate at which drivers are naturally comfortable navigating them and if you start to lower the speed limit, people will want to pass and tailgate, creating imminent danger.

 

St. Armands crossing guards

For Commissioner Phill Younger the recent addition of crossing guards at St. Armands Circle is ineffective at best.

“The crossing guards are a band aid on a massive exploding wound. I don’t think we have gained anything by adding them.

A few minutes later, Mayor Duncan brought up the already installed Longboat crosswalks and told the FDOT representative that “the outcome is ridiculous; we have a crosswalk leading into a bush.”

Then Duncan told the FDOT that the Mayors of local municipalities including Longboat Key convened and developed a list of traffic solutions that are both obtainable and implementable.

To that, the FDOT representative said that they welcome local input. But he did defend the crosswalks in two ways. Namdam said it was the commission that pursued and pushed for the crosswalks and that the FDOT had indicated that not having a sidewalk on the west side of Gulf of Mexico Drive was an issue that the town needed to address. He added that the town was told it needed to place putting sidewalks on the west side of GMD on the priority list with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). He said if the town were to do that, the FDOT could support that effort.

Newly elected Commissioner Armando Linde added a new twist to the discussion when he spoke of what he sees as a very particular danger on Gulf of Mexico Drive.

“I live in Country Club Shores and would like to live to an old age, but I will not if I have to turn heading south,” said Linde.

Linde is following former Commissioner Lynn Larson in the pursuit of a center turn lane so southbound traffic will not be forced to veer around stopped vehicles attempting to enter Country Club Shores.

The first thing that has to occur for a turn lane is for a traffic a study to be done. Bullock said that study is funded and the study is necessary to see if a turn lane is warranted before any construction is done.

That request prompted the other newly elected Commissioner, Ed Zunz, to say, “It would be spectacular” if a third lane could be installed on GMD at Broadway on the north end.

Namdam said that a third lane at the north end was not possible, but did speak of how an additional lane is being added from 119th Street in Cortez to the Cortez Bridge, and he said that would help alleviate traffic.

“That is signifigant,” Bullock told Longboat Key News. “It is heaviliy congested along that route and it will make a difference in that north-end congestion.”

 

Barrier Island suggested traffic fixes

As Duncan told Namdam at the meeting, the Mayors of four island cities — Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key — developed a list of traffic fixes it wishes the FDOT and MPO to consider. Longboat Key News obtained a draft copy of the list. Bullock helped the Mayor’s develop the list

 

Mayors’ list of possible traffic fixes…

• Determine the viability and effectiveness of express buses for beachgoers both on Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road with two to three central pickup stops in Bradenton and Palmetto ending at the Manatee or Coquina Beach. Provide rider coupons for use at beach concessions and collaborate with local businesses to promote service.

• In coordination with Manatee County, lease a portion of the parking lots at 75th Street and Manatee Avenue and Cortez and 75th Avenue.

• Offer a shuttle service to and from the island for island employees.

• Reduce drawbridge lifts on area bridges to one per hour.

• Monitor traffic flow remotely using cameras and adjust the red light/green light time to facilitate traffic flow.

• Manual override of traffic signal for law enforcement to allow for maximum flow as needed.

• Extra island trolleys.

• Improve traffic light operations at Cortez Bridge to 119th Street.

• Explore viability of an inexpensive water taxi from downtown Bradenton.

• Add pedestrian controls to limit the crossing of roads to designated crosswalks only.

• Remove traffic light at Mote Marine.

• Remove the median at Mound Street in Sarasota.

 

 

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1 Response for “Town talks traffic help, crosswalks at meeting”

  1. Evan Fletcher says:

    Many months ago there was an article or a letter in the Herald about or from the St. Armand’s merchants association decrying how bad parking (and traffic) was on the circle, yet the article seemed to only be concerned with the merchants. Driving through St. Armands via 789, John Ringling Pkwy, is the only means for LBK residents to reach Sarasota, short of heading many miles north through all the beach traffic and taking a circuitous route via Cortez Rd and the US 41 into Sarasota. All we read about are the problems at Universty Pkwy due to the UTC mall, yet there are other options for those residents. Imagine what it would be like for those residents to have to drive through the UTC parking lot, all the while stopping for every pedestrian shopper who chooses to slowly cross the road and every driver who stops to look for a parking space, in order to drive to Sarasota. That is what the fiasco called St.Armand’s Circle has become. Just wait for all the high-occupancy construction to be completed. Now we read that Bee Ridge Road at Cattlemen Rd is getting a makeover, yet I have been in that area many times at rush hour during season and there was NO backup evident. St. Armand’s merchants rule, LBK residents suffer and all FDOT wants to do for us is conduct another study.

    What genius designed the flow of traffic from the circle to Lido Beach to have to cross BOTH lanes of southbound 789 traffic coming from Longboat Key and subsequently having to merge into a stopped single lane laden with parking spaces? Couple that with the above analogy at UTC – a major road has to cross through what amounts to a pedestrian shopping mall; shoppers meander whenever they want across the main road at many locations forcing traffic to stop for each and every one; drivers stop to wait for street parking completely blocking one or more lanes. The routing of the traffic on St. Armand’s needs to be fixed. The on street parking on the circle itself needs to be eliminated, and 2 large parking garages need to be built where the city lots currently exist. Let the shoppers who create the mess and the shop owners who promote it cover the added costs of a second garage. There is nothing like driving the 8 miles from just past the former Colony property to Sarasota in over ONE HOUR. It really should not just be all about the merchants. Some of us do have places we need to go and appointments we must keep. Bypassing the Circle altogether would be ideal.

    Regarding the recent addition of “crossing guards”, I certainly hope these PTMs are truly trying to facilitate vehicle traffic rather than merely facilitating stopping automobile traffic for pedestrians. After one recent 45 minute four mile “drive” to St. Armand’s Circle (followed by a 30 minute “drive” to cross the Ringling Bridge) I observed a group of 4 people cross when a PTM stopped all vehicles. After the 4 had crossed, the waiting vehicles were briefly waved on, but immediately, as a couple approached the intersection to cross, the PTM stopped the traffic for the 2 pedestrians. Certainly appears to be more of a pedestrian facilitator rather than a vehicular facilitator. I have seen this occur on many occasions. What is the point of having the PTMs when traffic is bumper to bumper anyway (which explains why there are no guards where southbound GMD enters the Circle)?

    Finally, dropping the speed limit on GMD will do nothing but frustrate drivers even more that they already are. With a posted speed limit of 45 mph, we’re lucky if many of the drivers go 35 mph. Add to that having only a single lane and nowhere to safely pass, the new norm will become 25 mph – just what we need. It is no wonder that LBK residents are choosing to move off the island in order to avoid the grid lock.

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