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Ringling Bridge traffic defines planning

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.comSarasota traffic

Anyone who lives on Longboat or Lido Key knows that a late-afternoon or early-evening trip to downtown Sarasota can be a harrowing experience in traffic.

That fact is the basis for Longboat Key Town Manager Dave Bullock and his fellow commissioners ongoing questioning of the impact a proposed roundabout at Gulfstream Avenue and US 41 will have on the island communities.

Bullock and Mayor Terry Gans told the Sarasota County Commission in a joint workshop held recently that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) needs to use the latest traffic counts as it plans for this roundabout.

Bullock said he is particularly concerned that the roundabout, which will be located at the base of the Westin Hotel, shows 11 pedestrian crossing points, all of which will conspire to stop traffic.

Last August, Longboat Key did score a victory when the Sarasota City Commission approved an FDOT plan for three left turn lanes as drivers turn north off of Gulfstream onto US 41.

Longboat had fought the City’s proposal for two left turns lanes and increased pedestrian crossings. That plan had been championed by Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin, but on Aug. 21 the city commission voted to approve the three turn lane option, instead of Barwin’s proposal.

Currently, traffic has already been amassing in late afternoons from what appears to be the blocking of the future third left-turn lane with cones and barricades. That lane historically has cut straight through the intersection toward Main Street, but will soon be converted to the additional turn lane.

The three left turn lanes are a temporary measure to help facilitate traffic flow until the roundabout is built. FDOT also created a dedicated right turn lane so drivers northbound can enter Fruitville Road heading east without stopping.

Although Longboat Key continues to pressure the city, FDOT and the county with the charge of continual evaluation of the efficiency of the proposed roundabout, Longboat has not officially come out against the roundabout proposal.

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