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The indignity of traffic on St. Armands Circle and Ringling Bridge

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

It is clear the FDOT and the City of Sarasota have no grasp on what traffic does to otherwise rational human beings.

There is no therapy, no gun laws, no SSRIs or deep breathing exercises that can shield us from the frustration that rises like a snake of kundalini energy from our foot that hovers helplessly over the gas pedal. That frustration moves through our chest and lungs and heart and only comes out in hand gestures, insults at nearby drivers and feeble attempts to escape the insanity of being trapped in a metal box for an hour trying to get through St. Armands Circle.

Take my recent experience in my BMW that held me like a leather-cloaked 8 cylinder coffin soaring to a top speed of seven miles per hour over the Ringling Bridge.

I whiz off of Longboat Key over New Pass Bridge, slow down quite dramatically at the S-turn in front of Lido Shores and then as I rise over the small bridge before St. Armands Circle my mood suddenly collapses. A two-pronged fork of cars jettisons me into cab-driver mode.

“Left lane or right lane? I know, I will slink around behind Wells Fargo Bank and bypass all of this mess,” I say to myself.

For a moment I feel wily and evasive and a tad smarter than everyone else. Perhaps I will impress my passenger (usually my wife) with my uncanny ability to circumvent the nightmare and deliver us to our restaurant in Downtown Sarasota on time.

Then the bad news confronts me straight ahead. A line of cars so long circling through the side streets that I realize that my crafty idea was original five years ago. Everyone takes the shortcut.

Inevitably, I start yelling into my own windshield — knowing full well nobody is listening — if I sense any reluctance from cars in front of me to push into the lanes of traffic exiting St. Armands Circle.

“Be aggressive — you have to learn to wedge yourself into traffic! No flagman is going to guide you into the lane you clown! Learn how to push the pedal you moron!”

Then I see a bicyclist blowing by everyone unfettered by all of the traffic mess.

“Oh my God, we passed that bicyclist on Longboat Key! He is going to beat us Downtown.”

I then turn ridiculously resentful.

“Bicyclists should have to wait in traffic too. Why are they dressed like they are in the Tour de France?”

At this point my wife tells me, “You are stressing the kids out. You are not in New York with your Dad and brother…”

 

The traffic always comes like a late Christmas present.

This past week, it was as if the traffic gods bore down like some Old Testament locust-throwing-flood-ravaging deity intent on sending our collective blood pressure through the sunroof. And there is not enough statins in the world to settle down an angered demographic already at risk for stroke.

In total, 7,300 residents and visitors were late for dinner according to Google and Trip Advisor.

Add to this the sad casualty rate of 17 Longboaters who passed away while stuck either driving or in the passenger’s seat somewhere between Longboat Key, St. Armands Circle and Downtown Sarasota. And realize that those who passed ebbed at less than 1 MPH into the afterlife.

Another strange statistic is police estimate 740 cocktails and countless under-the dash-bottles of beer are downed by drivers who got stuck in traffic during happy hour and feel justified in keeping the tradition. One man actually argued in court that he should not be charged with a DUI because he never got out of first gear the entire time he was drinking.

The most impressive statistic is the sheer number — 8,245 — of expletives hurled at fellow drivers, the FDOT and the City of Sarasota.

 

It is all just a dream…

T.S. Eliot may have measured out his life in coffee spoons, but we measure our lives out in our cars, stuck in traffic as we pass the hour with texts, phone calls, Facebook posts and the desperate search for a riveting true-crime podcast.

In the last week I have seen and heard the following activities as I morosely sat in traffic — angry arguments on cell phones while hands are gesticulating; a woman tweezing hair off her chin while bending the rear view mirror for a better view as she texted; a child playing Mary had a Little Lamb on a toy flute, Three dogs — each with its head poking out of a separate window while the driver took a selfie and smoked a joint and a man who made the gesture of shooting a pistol with his hand repeatedly into the air as he waited to move along.

 

Why all of this traffic we may wonder?

Part is organic. The inevitability of the endless stream of approvals by area municipalities of more condo units. Also the dominance of the for-rent-by-owner industry has added countless new visitors.

But a large part of the issue is the construction of the new roundabouts closing lanes on US 41 and creating the ripple effect on traffic exiting off the Ringling Bridge.

It may be nice to know the cause, but the arrogance and lack of consideration bordering on contempt by the FDOT and the City of Sarasota should leave us all aghast.

The traffic does affect the economy. It does cause people to cancel appointments, not look at real estate listings and make a mental note for future visits.

I grew up on Long Island and the Long Island Expressway was legendary for its traffic. We cannot and should not accept this reality of a de facto Long Island Expressway twisted and folded like origami and dropped between St. Armands Circle and Downtown Sarasota.

I know so many Longboat public officials and residents have worked to help tackle the traffic conundrum and the only answer it appears is resignation.

Or perhaps think of it like the Three Noble Truths of Buddhism: You will get stuck in traffic; you will use all kinds of distractions and technology to deal with it; and then, after a long journey through a circle of hell, you will be released and it will all fade like a dream.

Tat Tvam Asi.

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1 Response for “The indignity of traffic on St. Armands Circle and Ringling Bridge”

  1. paracelsus says:

    there are so many possibilities for spans across Sarasota Bay, both north and south of Ringling Causeway, they’re just too numerous to mention. It may take some eminent domain aggravation, but it could be accomplished by 2120

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