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Sarasota traffic fuels frustration, fear and numerous explanations

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Resident experts, government officials, business leaders and everyday commuters have all joined the cacophony of complaints over traffic that forms each afternoon from South Longboat Key all the way to St. Armands and into Downtown Sarasota.

In the past week alone, Longboat Key’s Town Manager, Sarasota City Commissioners, Longboat Key Commissioners, the St. Armands Merchants Association President and numerous residents have implored the City of Sarasota and the Florida Department of Transportation to explain why the traffic is so persistent, offer suggestions and insight and to raise safety concerns.

For Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer, the problem is the closing of the third left turn lane that was installed two years ago so drivers heading east from St. Armands Circle could more expeditiously turn north onto U.S. 41. The FDOT closed the third turn lane temporarily as part of its work schedule for the Fruitville Road/U.S. 41 roundabout construction project.

Harmer said that the closing is causing a lot of the backup of traffic in his belief and that the town was originally told that the third turn lane would open again in January.

Sarasota City Engineer Alexandrea Davis Shaw said that the lane closing will remain for at least another month, into early March.

Davis Shaw also says that the recent traffic was further exacerbated by the lane reduction at 10th and 14th Street along U.S. 41, which were also roundabout projects at those intersections. She said that work has been completed.

Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Daly wrote FDOT Secretary L.K. Nandam of his personal driving experience last Thursday. He noticed that southbound traffic on Longboat Key’s Gulf of Mexico Drive was completely backed up from St. Armands Circle all the way to Club Road on the south end of Longboat Key. He said that the roadway was completely congested through St. Armands Circle, but improved somewhat after exiting the Circle at the Coon Key Bridge, which separates Bird Key and St. Armands Key.

Daly told Nandam that he “can only conclude that the speed bumps and extensive pedestrian crossing caused the extensive Circle congestion.”

Daly said he was making this point to underscore what numerous residents have also told him that the roundabouts and pedestrian crossings on the Circle are making the congestion worse.

Daly suggested the need to implement a pedestrian control officers program.

For Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Bishop, the issue is one of safety for island residents. She fears that traffic conditions will only worsen in February and wrote Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, “We are now learning that Fruitville will be closed at U.S. 41 in March. Citizens are shocked with this proposal and cannot imagine how the City can put that additional impediment to St. Armands, Lido, Bird Key and Longboat. This is the very definition of health, welfare and safety issues. Your help for your citizens as well as ours, is desperately needed.”

St. Armands Circle Association Executive Director Diana Corrigan has also expressed concern that the traffic buildup is impacting businesses on the Circle and could lead to a negative experience for visitors.

Perhaps time is the only salvo being offered by the FDOT. The roundabout project is slated to be completed by the end of the year 2020.

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3 Responses for “Sarasota traffic fuels frustration, fear and numerous explanations”

  1. rose stohmann says:

    I am so frustrated with this traffic on Longboat Key. I have a condo here for 24 years and am only here for 5 months of the year since I am a snowbird. Is Gulf of Mexico Drive being used as a short cut from all the tourists. I had two occasions last week that I had to be at a certain time and both times I had to turn around at Coquina Beach. In regard to the circle at St. Armand, people cross any time even without looking. That holds up the traffic. They should have a crossguard there and let a certain amount of people cross at one time.
    The other problem is Coquina Beach. Cars who are ready to leave the beach bud in even when you are already standing in line for over half to one hour. There are police cruiser standing there and watch. Why not
    put them to use and let them patrol the traffic coming from the beach. When it comes to tourism, the tourist who are here at this time will probably not be coming back nor will the buy here. I already dread how this will be coming March when there is school break here and in Canada. I am also thinking of selling my Condo here on the island since it is so stressful every time you step in the car.

  2. rose stohmann says:

    very frustrating

  3. Gabriel Rosica says:

    Of course it is the speed bumps and pedestrian traffic that trickles across the walkways instead of being bunched for crossing, and the removal of the third lane at 41 to Fruitville Rd. It isn’t rocket science. Obviously the folks making the decisions about what to do and when to do it and who decided to put in the St. Armands speed bumps, have no clue what they are doing. The bad news is that this all will look like no problem at all once the Fruitville traffic circle is in place and the real nightmare begins.

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