Longboat ramps up roundabout rebellion

Associate Publisher

Traffic this season is at a standstill. Anyone traveling anywhere has planned for at least an extra hour travel time to get to their destination. 

At this week’s workshop, Longboat Key Town Commissioners developed a strategic plan to help with the traffic congestion that has plagued the barrier islands this year.  The plan involves meeting with the City of Sarasota Mayor and commissioners and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). It also involves coordinating with area Homeowners Associations and Business Associations to attend City of Sarasota Commission meetings to show a unified front regarding how something needs to be done.

Since the roundabout construction along US 41 north trail have begun, removal of Australian pines along John Ringling Boulevard, and the MURT construction has all coincided with seasonal residents and visitors, traffic has backed up to a point where automobile travelers and commissioners alike are writing letters to the City. The City of Sarasota is the location of all the construction this year.

Longboat Commissioners agreed to allow Town Manager Tom Harmer to write a letter to Sarasota City Commissioners asking to meet as soon as possible. Also, Longboat Commissioners want to be included in construction timelines and the decision-making on when the construction will be done on future projects.

According to Harmer, the town was not notified of the construction projects in the same way as they were in prior years, with plenty of notice. Harmer also felt the time to meet with the City Commission was now, while the issue of traffic is timely.

“I think it’s (traffic) going to get worse in the next couple of seasons. We seem to have trouble influencing these projects even though they affect us. It seems to be caused by some construction issues at 10th St. and 14th St. I know the City has been communicating with the town commission, we’ve also been communicating with FDOT. I think that we should take action within the next 30-60 days because season will end, and we don’t want to lose that opportunity,” said Harmer.

Commissioner Ken Schneier agreed and thought now is the time to act.

“We have some traction now with the Mayor of Sarasota. I think it is a good idea to press our case right now. I think we want to delay the construction of the US 41 and Gulfstream roundabout. I think there may be a role for the Longboat commission to show up at a city meeting to show up in force. We need to get this as a cooperative grass roots effort with Lido Key and Bird Key. Our argument should be that this is not a good idea, and make the political case. If we had some pictures maybe from some local realtors using drones and time stamp them it would help our case. If we just flash these, you could make a startling case for how bad this traffic is. And we don’t need to make the case that the roundabout will be bad in the end, but that it will be two years of hell with construction,” said Schneier.

Commissioner Mike Haycock said, “I suggest we start showing up at (Sarasota City Commission) meetings.” Then Haycock asked what entity had the authority to stop the roundabout project.

Harmer said that FDOT is doing the roundabout construction on behalf of, and in partnership with, the City of Sarasota.

“So I imagine if the City said stop, they would stop,” said Harmer.

Town staff informed the Longboat Commission that the City of Sarasota had given a lot of money to FDOT to construct roundabouts along US 41, and that was why FDOT is taking on the project. Also, commissioners noted that the City was concerned about the flooding at the intersection of US 41 and Gulfstream, so the roundabout was going to help alleviate that problem.

Commissioner Jack Daly was also in agreement that the Longboat Commission should be meeting with the City Commission.

“The Mayor of Sarasota is on board.  The City Manager Tom Barwin is in favor of the roundabout. The staff, and he particularly, is gung ho for the project. Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch at our joint meeting a year ago was the only commissioner who even raised a question about the roundabout. So I think we should say in the letter, ‘Thank you, Jen.’ We need to ask for another joint meeting with the City and meet with FDOT. But this intersection is an important issue,” said Daly.

Vice Mayor Ed Zunz said, “I think getting rid of this roundabout is one of the most important things we can do. The most appropriate one of us should have a meeting with the Mayor.”

Commissioner Randy Clair added another concern that may add urgency to solve the traffic problem is the data on ambulance response and transfer times.

“Another issue to put in the letter is putting in the transfer time for emergency vehicles to medical emergencies. This information would show how this traffic is having a negative effect on our citizens. If we could get information also from the Fire Station on the circle to back up our data. That way the city commission will see that what they are doing is impacting people’s lives,” said Clair.

Harmer said he would look into the response times and gather the necessary information. Harmer also told the commission that he would reach out to the City of Sarasota on Wednesday to set up a meeting with the mayor.

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1 Response for “Longboat ramps up roundabout rebellion”

  1. Matt Kapassa says:

    Of course overpopulating a 10 mile long island with only 2 entrances / exits has no effect on traffic…. Just saying…

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