Electric shuttles could soon link Lido and downtown

In relative terms, fixing area traffic snarls is predicated on one thing and that is funding. That is why when the Town of Longboat Key, the City of Sarasota and other municipalities undertook a barrier island traffic study, it is ultimately to move proposed solutions higher on the funding food chain in state government.

Last week, that is exactly what the City of Sarasota Commission did when it voted to approve adding three projects to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) priority list for funding by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

The MPO seeks to have the state FDOT agency include its special list of projects based on the barrier island traffic study in upcoming work projects.

The local government representatives on the MPO board will consider the priority of the local municipal projects on June 18.

The three city projects that are proposed for the barrier island traffic study initiative is to:

• Install high visibility back plates

• Extend the westbound turn lane at the intersection of John Ringling Parkway and Ken Thompson Parkway, which is at the south end of New Pass Bridge on City Island. The goal is to reduce queue spillover. The problem occurs with vehicles stacking up that are exiting the area of Mote Marine, Old Salty Dog and City Island and when they turn left or South onto SR 789, they back up. According to City Staff, the existing westbound left turn lane is about 75 feet long and therefore can only accommodate about three vehicles. To extend the left turn lane to handle the average volume of vehicles will cost an estimated $200,000.

• Install a low-speed vehicle lane on the Ringling Bridge and State Road 789 between St. Armands Circle and Downtown Sarasota

The idea of a dedicated lane was first conceived as a potential additional bus lane but now staff is focusing on electric vehicles similar to the iRide shuttle that could make trips between Lido, City Island, the beaches, St. Armands and Downtown Sarasota.

The City Engineer Alexandrea Davis Shaw said that the only obstacle to an electric vehicle is the Coon Key Bridge. She said that if FDOT reduced the speed to 35 m.p.h. then the electric vehicle could become possible.

The other recommendation approved by the city is to install “high visibility back plates” to draw attention to the traffic signal at John Ringling Causeway and Bird Key Drive.

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