Sarasota County supports tackling traffic amid protest

The Sarasota County Commission made area traffic snarls a priority last week. 

Four County Commissioners agreed to include the $1.1 million Sarasota County Barrier Island traffic study as a top priority in transportation funding. The study will be presented to the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, which if approved, will then be submitted to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

Another study, which was championed by the City of Sarasota and Longboat Key, has focused on the intense congestion experienced during the busy season on roadways from downtown Sarasota through St. Armands Circle, to Anna Maria Island and West Bradenton.

County Commissioner Charles Hines was upset that a traffic study undertaken two decades ago, suggesting an additional bridge from Sarasota mainland to Longboat Key was never pursued. Hines added that most of the factors are already known and expected that new studies merely replicate existing knowledge.

The study the Sarasota County Commission approved on Feb. 27 will include Siesta, Casey and Manasota Key.

Hines said that instead of spending $1.1 million he would rather fund a trolley or build something tangible instead of hiring consultants.

The board decided that the study could help leverage state and federal funding even though there is an immediate cost up front.

The study that came out of Longboat Key and Manatee County and includes downtown Sarasota has brought scores of recommendations to help alleviate traffic. One that will be implemented is the creation of an additional third left turn lane on Gulfstream Avenue for motorists who are descending the Ringling Bridge and want to head north on U.S. 41. Another recommendation is the expansion of adding lanes in Cortez where another bottleneck occurs.

The implementation of any traffic solutions in the South County will likely be after 2020, according to staff.

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