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Editorial Letters – Week ending February 28, 2020

Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: letters@lbknews.com or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Longboat Key Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues as well as Sarasota City Hall that address Sarasota issues. We reserve the right to edit.

Traffic fatigue

To: Editor

I have lived on Longboat Key for over 25 years, this being my home both summer and winter. I have never seen the traffic so bad. As Sarasota allows over-development. It is causing residents of Longboat Key to never get off the key. The people who work on the Key take at least two extra hours to get home from work. I have spent two days mostly in my car to ensure my getting to performances by the Sarasota Symphony and the Asolo Theatre. I have paid for the tickets but I cannot get off the Key to use them without sitting in my car for hours. There is construction north through Holmes Beach which is very slow. And so many cars on the road south that it is difficult to get around the Circle.

South, unless you leave very early, you meet traffic bumper to bumper trying to go south on the Trail. Today I was so exhausted I had to stay home in bed. When I did think of leaving, the roads were closed for Vice President Pence. Either Sarasota must pay more attention to its neighbors or we must protest. How could a neighbor treat us like this?

Anne Arsenault

Longboat Key

 

Traffic

To: Editor

We have been wintering on Longboat Key for six seasons. Each year has seen more and more traffic congestion. While we enjoy the climate here, this year’s traffic may be our last. One example: on President’s Day, it took us two hours to get from Longboat to Selva Grille on Main Street in Sarasota. It was about an 18 mile trip. Ridiculous.

Fred Stuart

Philadelphia

 

Traffic pattern update

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

The City of Sarasota hosted a project update meeting today regarding U.S. 41 at Fruitville Roundabout construction.  I attended by phone.  These are the key topics and updates discussed today, with a Phase 2 detour graphic attached:

Project started November 2019

• Much of work focused on deep water mains, storm drainage out to Sarasota Bay, and preparing the traffic shift area on the developer’s property

Major Milestone upcoming (planned):

Shifting Traffic off of U.S. 41 to the west onto temporary roadway on the developer’s property; to be paved this weekend.

• SB two-lanes traffic shifted by Monday morning 3/2/2020

• WB Fruitville from Cocoanut Ave. to U.S. 41 closed/shut-down Monday 3/2/2020.

• Formal Detour is Lemon Avenue up to 10th Street (message boards will be set to provide advance notice to motorists)

• For southbound traffic, will encourage to go south to Ringling, but Lemon to 10th is the official detour for all traffic heading to U.S. 41 from Fruitville.

• NB two-lanes traffic shifted by Tuesday morning 3/3/2020

• EB third left-turn lane on Gulfstream at U.S. 41 re-opened Tuesday 3/3/2020

• Begin tearing out existing U.S. 41 pavement starting week of 3/9/2020….Begin 24/7 work schedule for this work, including night work

• There will be unobstructed eastbound traffic flow onto Fruitville Road from U.S. 41 …once the traffic signal is deactivated and comes down

Comments on the phone — presumably by city members of the public (?) — asked if the City and contractor could have increased law enforcement to help with traffic flow.  Expressed concern about island-bound traffic using a neighborhood detour. City and contractor explained continued coordination and support from City of Sarasota PD.  A discussion also ensued as to how Waze and Google Maps will pick-up these changes as users start driving it. Also, a lot of conversation regarding Blvd. of the Arts.

Isaac Brownman

Director Public Works

Town of Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Ed, the police are not adequately protecting village taxpayers from parking violations and blocked streets. We have a right to be adequately and equally  protected. Since the present untenable situation is the direct result of past, and not so past,  town commission actions,  the town needs to hire a full time enforcement officer to uphold the law in the village until permit parking is approved by the commission.

Now tour busses are blocking Broadway in front of the Shore for an hour or more, and no police to enforce unsafe blocking of the street.

We want to be safe. We want as fast medical responses as other residents enjoy elsewhere on the island. That is not possible with the outdated parking ordinance that ignores narrow streets throughout much of the village, where adjoining equally narrow streets have totally different  parking restrictions.

Please add two hour parking to the next commission meeting agenda along with the need to immediately address commission approved parking and traffic congestion problems that can be easily helped with better law enforcement in the village.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Great news; Manatee beach help!

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

At yesterday’s Manatee County Commission Meeting the Commission authorized a letter from the Chair to the Town Commission confirming their vote yesterday to participate in our north end re-nourishment project.  They have indicated that they will amend their Fiscal Year 2021 Capital Improvement Plan to include the $2.69 million requested for our project. They did condition their financial support upon the passage of the Town’s Beach Bonding Authorization on the March 17th Ballot.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Village parking

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Ed, while the village residents are waiting for the commission to conclude its deliberations, in preparation for permit only parking in the village, would you please have the commission revise the town parking map to:

1) uniformly apply safety parking criteria to all streets on the island to allow safe passage of emergency vehicles and both pedestrian and bicycle traffic. This includes street width parking restrictions applied to all streets, so as to afford all residents equal protection.

2) place an interim 2 hour parking limit on all streets in the village to end the abuse of the community by the two restaurant owners, forcing their workers to use the village streets for a quasi-commercial use, directly analogous to valet parking, which is outlawed throughout the town. There is no difference between using public streets for commercial purposes (valet parking) and the forced on-street parking of dozens of employee cars parked on the public right-of-way, again for commercial gain.

Residential taxpayers should not have to subsidize commercial interests. I am requesting that you place these items on the agenda of the next commission meeting.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Staff working on LBK and those who work off LBK don’t have your luxury of coming and going as you please. Those dependent on caregivers coming to them face medical issues and stress without that critical help.

I am staying on this issue until the hundreds who have reached out to me see improvement from the City of Sarasota. I look at the whole community. Not everything is about you or me.

BJ Bishop

Planning and Zoning Board Chair

Longboat Key

 

Traffic

To: Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Bishop

BJ, I drive into Sarasota regularly, and if I schedule my trips intelligently, I have only experienced minor congestion at the Ringling intersection.  I believe that municipal services are seldom designed at 100% peak capacity load factors. The current, and historical, traffic problems are seasonal, and to a lesser degree, weekends, after four pm, occurrences. Even the best build out scenario will most likely not remove periodic overloading at both ends of the island, due in part to the limitations of the surrounding infrastructure. I do wish the plight of drivers exiting the north end of Longboat received as much attention as you are paying to the south end.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Traffic

To: Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Bishop

Please note, your emails to the town are coming from your personal email account.  Since I was responding to one of these town emails, I now know why I unwittingly sent an email, that so displeasured you, to your personal email account. Since you do hold a public office, I am wondering if you should always use your town email address for town email.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Traffic signs outdated

To: Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Bishop

BJ, please look into regional area smart traffic grids that are already reducing congestion and travel times in many metropolitan areas. We all are currently using 70-year old traffic signal technology in this area.

Smart grid traffic control systems are available and could be implemented in a matter of weeks if local governments were motivated to improve traffic flows throughout the area, including the Cortez intersection which is more congested, more of the time. Such systems use existing infrastructure so there are no construction hurtles.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Gulfstream Traffic

To: Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Chair BJ Webb

Thanks for getting some response from the Sarasota mayor re rethinking the Gulfstream/US 41 roundabout. Today they slapped us in the face again by closing the right lane of Gulfstream at Golden Gate making it a one-Lane Road! What are they thinking?

Jeff Carter

President

Country Club Shores V

 

West Area MURT at Coon Key – North Side Earthwork Maintenance of Traffic

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

Good afternoon. Writing to let you know that we’re moving into the next phase of work for the MURT project. We’ve completed the sidewalk on the south side of John Ringling Causeway, and it is open to bicyclists and pedestrians.  Switching to the north side, the first part is removing unsuitable soil and trucking in suitable material for the backfill for the new water main and drain line.  This will require temporary closure of the outside lane of SR 789 going westbound to the barrier islands.  Closure of the outside lane is necessary for worker safety as well as protection of the existing underground utilities.  The two lanes going eastbound to the mainland will not be impacted.

We’ve limited the contractor to 8 am to 1 pm for this work, like the previous work for pouring the concrete sidewalk on the south side.  I’ve also given instructions to the contractor that if traffic backups are excessive, to pull the cones back before 1 pm if needed.  The earthwork should begin Tuesday and last for two weeks.  If you have any questions or would like additional information, please let me know.

Daniel Ohrenstein

Assistant City Engineer

City of Sarasota Public Works Department

 

I am pleading with you…

To: Sarasota City Commission

I have been in daily contact with your City Manager.  To date, with no response and with your Mayor, who has been diligent in responding to the crisis that has been created by the City of Sarasota and FDOT in paralyzing traffic at Gulf Stream and Route 41 due to the elimination of the 3rd left turn lane.

I am not new to public service.  Prior to serving as the Chair of the Planning and Zoning Board on Longboat Key, I served as Mayor, Vice Mayor, Council Member and planning commissioner in Leesburg, VA, a suburb of Washington, D.C.  I know a bit about traffic and working with the State DOT.

The elimination of the third left turn lane, one that Longboat Key fought for to lessen the paralyzed traffic has created over 1 hour delays getting off Lido, St. Armand’s, Bird Key and Longboat Key. The impact on businesses, tourists and residents is serious.  Some businesses are losing employees who can not justify sitting in traffic up to 2 hours for jobs out here.  Some of our senior citizens who still are fortunate enough to live in their own homes have lost their caregivers. Realtors are telling me that customers no longer are willing to look at listings on St. Armand’s, Lido, Bird Key or Longboat Key.  I know some residents have mailed their tickets to events they were unable to attend to the City Manager and have vowed to not purchase tickets for entertainment venues in Sarasota again.

While you may not have experienced the depletion in tax revenue.  You will.  But that should not be your first consideration for an immediate solution to this nightmare.  Your first responsibility as elected officials is to insure the health, welfare and safety of your community.  We are not safe.  Those without caregivers are not receiving the healthcare they need.  One frustrated resident who called the City of Sarasota was told “they should move to the mainland”.  Hardly a solution.

My experience in VA was when improving major travel roads we would never eliminate traffic lanes. This is not rocket science for engineers — why this was done at Gulf Stream and 41 makes no sense. The town of Longboat Key has agreed to pay 1/3 of the cost for crossing guards at St. Armand’s.  Why has the start date for that been delayed til March by the City?  And, why would you begin a sidewalk project on Coon Key in the midst of season?  Not only did the project impact vehicle traffic and bicycle traffic, but pedestrian traffic.

Please come out to our Town Hall and try to return to the City of Sarasota anytime after 3:30 p.m. You will experience what your taxpayers in Lido, St. Armand’s and Bird Key experience every day, as well as our residents who used to spend a great deal of money in your City.  Now, they can’t get there to do that.

I am pleading with you on behalf of the over 7,000 residents and 10,000 to 15,000 tourists to our island to take immediate action to give us some relief from this nightmare.

BJ Webb Bishop

Longboat Key

 

Barwin Responds

To: Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Bishop

Thank you for your note. I have not corresponded with you because Mayor Ahern-Koch has been and we’re so busy we try not to duplicate work.  I have however been talking with Mr. Harmer, and FDOT and others about doing all that can be done to minimize traffic delays for Long Boat Key residents and all visitors who head to the islands.

While LBK is for crossing guards at the circle, as are we, we would welcome LBK’s participation with several other initiatives, including our water taxi study, looking into Ferry’s, talking about how to facilitate increasing numbers of pedestrian and bicyclists to the islands, especially considering the Legacy Trail will be bringing up to 200,000 cyclists to downtown Sarasota each year within the next few years and potentially LBK.  The more alternatives which can be provided to the islands, the more the pressure on the roads can be lessened.

Both communities are actively engaged with FDOT and I believe working diligently to do the best possible job to manage traffic as we move forward.    Our city has also hired transportation specialists working on updating all of our plans to create new public policy options in terms of moving people in the years ahead.   As Fl grows will shuttles, mono-rails, boats to the islands help reduce traffic?      We welcome participation and ideas on any systems and funding to move people to the islands as the peak baby boomer retirement age is not here yet, and that will be followed by an even larger demographic group in terms of new millennials.

I am sure you are also aware we have a dramatically growing number of pedestrians walking downtown and crossing to the bayfront. Pedestrian safety is something we have to deal with as people don’t have very good odds when struck by a car racing to its next destination.

It wasn’t that long ago that there was a drawbridge on the John Ringling Causeway.   I have been told by my many city staff and locals that the bridge caused many and regular and ongoing traffic nightmares.  Fortunately improvements have been made.     Since the new bridge has opened in 2003, we have had years of better flow, however, it has managed to open up the capacity for more people and cars to get to the islands much more efficiently than the past.   In fact we just completed a new parking garage on St. Armand’s to help park the greater number of visitors and to lessen people circling the circle looking for parking.     Meanwhile, Florida, Sarasota, and Manatee county’s continue to grow rapidly. Air traffic at SRQ has also doubled over the past couple of January’s, and new passengers once here, are also joining record numbers of people who are using our roads. The capacity improvements now underway will improve flow and capacity to and from the islands by 25% to 40% once the improvements are completed and this is very important to keep in mind.

I deeply regret the inconvenience, which I have also experienced on many occasions.    I do wish to convey that we have a caring and committed team working on it and your message has been heard and several follow up talks and actions are underway to further improve upon doing all we can humanly do to deal with the circumstances. Thanks for caring. Best wishes for a wonderful weekend.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Village Permit Parking Initiative

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

I am writing to you on behalf of the Villagers to say thank you for your presentation yesterday. We were all very pleased that you had taken time to walk around, count cars and see for yourself the daily surge of traffic into the neighborhood.

The thoughtful and well prepared opinion that you took the time to write made a visible impact on your fellow Commissioners.

We Villagers hope that the Commission can see and understand the impact of massive traffic and parking on our once quiet little known piece of Paradise and be prepared to make real changes to protect us. Thank you very much Ed.

Madeleine Stewart

The LBVA Board and Members

 

Village Permit Parking Initiative

To: Madeleine Stewart

Madeleine, Thank you for taking the time to express kind words on behalf of the Long Beach Village Association.  As you know, traffic, parking, safety and tradition in the village are complex matters that require very thoughtful resolution.  All of the commissioners and staff try their very best to arrive at fully informed solutions that they each believe are in the best interests of particular neighborhoods, as well as of the town as a whole. Voluminous additional data assembled by our citizens is under serious study. I expect that fair solutions will be agreed upon soon after the staff and our attorney get back to the commission next month with a report on some specific factual and legal particulars sent to them on Tuesday for further research. We know that our citizens are impatient, but government moves slowly and we must get this right. Thank you again for the LBVA interest and assistance.    

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Traffic: nothing is timed

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, Longboat Key Mayor George Spoll

I am writing to you to add my extremely frustrated voice to the many others you have heard from regarding the paralyzing traffic situation affecting drivers between downtown Sarasota and the adjacent barrier islands. We have been Longboat Key residents for ten years and the intensity and duration of traffic congestion has never been as bad as this year.  In the past few weeks the situation seems to have worsened and reached critical levels.  We can see the airport control tower from our condo balcony but despite that, it took my wife and I one hour and twenty minutes to get from Longboat Key to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport last Tuesday afternoon.  We anticipated bad traffic and left at 4 p.m. for a 7 p.m. flight. Even on that schedule we were worried we might not arrive in time for check-in.  It takes less time to get to the airport here in Toronto, and this is a city now larger than Chicago!

Beyond delays, the effects of this situation are becoming increasingly negative.   Emergency access to and from the islands is clearly being impaired – while en route to the airport we watched an ambulance on an emergency run to Sarasota Memorial Hospital crawling through 5 p.m. traffic over the bridge. If it was you or a family member on board, you would feel strongly about the traffic situation when seconds or minutes count.

It is now difficult to get a rush hour Diplomat Taxi pickup on Longboat Key and Uber/Lyft availability is very poor – what company would want to provide service under these traffic conditions? Conversely it is also affecting spending patterns – for the first year ever we haven’t visited a mainland restaurant or attended an evening event and we’re not planning to return to Longboat Key until April when the peak season has passed.  If it’s going to take over an hour to get across the bridge, the attractions of Downtown Sarasota or using SRQ Airport are unappealing.  Traffic onto the Keys is bad too. Barrier island shopping, dining and ownership are becoming equally unappealing. The St Armand’s merchants believe that’s the case now.  And more and more people are learning about the traffic woes of Sarasota.  Flying back to Toronto on Tuesday night, it was the main topic of the 200 people on the flight and there are a growing number of references on social media. None of this will help the area in the longer run.

While recent public statements seem to indicate sympathy towards the problem, it seems that the history of neglect is doomed to repeat itself.  Many reports have been written and many solutions have been proposed but few have been implemented.  Nothing ever  seems to be planned or timed appropriately.  There are three roundabout projects still under construction on 41 – they’ve all been started but none have been finished. Typically they start late, run long and finish late with no regard for seasonal factors – and let’s not forget that seasonal tourism is a mainstay of the local economy so ignoring it is inexplicable.  There’s no reason to believe that the next roundabout project at 41/Gulfstream, replacement of the Coon Key bridge, what’s left of the MURT project along Ringling or upcoming repairs to the New Pass bridge will be any better.  Plans to put monitors on the crosswalks in St Armands are still weeks away, and won’t make much difference this season. And I’ve yet to see a cop supervising or managing traffic situations in St Armands or around 41/Gulfstream, which has been the epicentre of the problems.  Basically every potential solution gets done slowly, late or not at all, and frankly more seems to be done to hinder than help while the problems just get worse.

Sarasota is growing and prospering.  Every time I walk through SRQ Airport its clear how much busier the area has become. That should be a good thing and compared to a decade ago, it’s clearly a more advantageous situation.  However the success also bears a cost and government at all levels isn’t keeping pace with solutions or organization to deliver them. In particular, the growth of one community cannot be at the expense of another. The needs and concerns of the entire area have to be taken into account and that hasn’t been the case to date.  Longboat Key in particular has been at best overlooked and perhaps ignored as the City of Sarasota, Sarasota County and FDOT have moved ahead with their plans. Your job as politicians is to solve community problems and make it better for citizens. The current situation demands a higher level of innovation, collaboration, co-operation and very focused project management if its ever going to get better.  Sarasota and Longboat Key governments need to communicate and collaborate effectively and constantly and take immediate steps to avoid making a bad situation even worse and before it adversely affects property and business owners, residents and visitors more than it is today.

Michael Foulkes

Longboat Key

 

Living here is heavenly until the traffic

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Living on Longboat Key is heavenly until you want to travel to Sarasota to shop and eat at a restaurant. We can’t eat out at our favorite restaurants in Sarasota anymore due to traffic backups. Please get this problem fixed.

Mary Ann Graf

Longboat Key

 

Traffic issue could be fatal

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

It is a problem every single day.  I have often thought of the elderly in need of immediate medical care.  This traffic issue could literally be fatal.  Something needs to be done.  Not tomorrow or next week but right now.   I hope FDOT and the city commissioners are listening to the residents….the people that pay a lot of taxes to live in “paradise”.

Jill Booth

Sarasota

 

Another day, another hour in traffic…

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Dear Jen, another day, another 1 hour plus backup of traffic. Several personal stories related to me included a senior living in their own home who needs a caregiver and after too many 2 hour commutes the caregiver could not continue. A service provider told a resident he would not accept business on Longboat or Lido. The commute costs him too much. Employees out here are reconsidering employment because of the commute and the City of Sarasota stating it will not get better any time soon.

Frustration is going to become road rage. This is dangerous and escalating daily. Please share with your fellow Commissioners.  Your concern is greatly appreciated.

BJ Bishop

Chair

Planning and Zoning Board

 

Reluctant to continue volunteering due to traffic

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We have discussed this previously, and I recently read of YOUR experience trying to get from the Key into downtown.

We are facing a horrendous situation right now, and one that is bound to get much, much worse as Sarasota continues to grow, and as the Gulfstream Roundabout work begins.

I can only say that if people think traffic from St. Armands into downtown is bad now, just wait until the Roundabout construction begins.  We need a break – of at least a decade!  What can be done to stop that ridiculous Roundabout?

Although I live downtown, less than a mile from the end of the bridge, my last two trips across that bridge took over an hour.

This not only affects commuters. In my case, I am reluctant to continue my 2 afternoons a week volunteering at Mote because of this traffic. Just the other day I chose to not go to Mote because we had plans to see show in Sarasota at 7 p.m., and I feared that if I left Mote at 5, I would not be able to get dinner and make it to the show on time. Thanks for your attention.

Gil Weiner

Sarasota

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I have worked from the office on Saturdays for the last two months and going home around 4:30/5:45 p.m. and the traffic is still bumper-to-bumper until The Ringling Museum. This is by far the worst I have ever experienced, considering I have managed high rise condos on Lido Beach and Longboat Key over the last thirteen years.

I appreciate and support your efforts with this and offer my assistance. Thanks again!

Melissa Johnson

Bird Key Homeowners Community Association Manager

 

Ridiculous and unacceptable

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

The traffic is ridiculous and unacceptable. I cannot believe this totally unacceptable situation may exist for years. The Bird Key Homeowners Association will support your efforts to correct this.

John C. Laurie, DVM

President Bird Key Homeowners Association

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We are all tax payers out here on Longboat Key…we need help, relief, whatever you want to call it …from the horrendous traffic problems…please do something. Common sense to prevail please…you all know the solutions to alleviate some of the problem…please act on them. Thank you.

Jean Gramaglia

Longboat Key

 

I feel like a prisoner…

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahern-Koch

We have lived on Bird Key since 2010. I now feel like a prisoner confined to my house except for mornings before 11 a.m. because of bad decisions on when and how to address growing traffic on the mainland and keys. The resulting horrendous traffic has been exacerbated by bad decisions on where to permit residential condos (case in point the Vue which is built closer to the roadway than single family houses are permitted to build). The old adage, money talks and in the this case people (have to) walk I would be interested to know if any of the city commissioners live on either Bird, Lido, St. Armand’s or Longboat Key (I have a hunch no or this nonsense would have ended). To add insult to the current injury, the plan is to address anticipated 2040 population growth by further ruining life on the keys with a pipe dream circle of all circles at the causeway and Rt 41. Putting aside the belief by some on the far left that the world will end in 10 years making the plan moot, this super circle is a disaster waiting to happen. It is apparent the commissioner’s decisions on planning buildings and roads is being done without any consideration to those who live on the keys.

Take down the barriers blocking traffic between Golden Gate and 41.

Tear up and burn the plan to add a circle at the causeway and Rt 41.  A completely fed up resident.

Dave Geary

Sarasota

 

Reasonable reconsideration

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I write this with the lightest heart I’ve had in a long time about my husband’s and my choice to purchase and remodel a condo in downtown Sarasota for our retirement years.

A month after we’d purchased our unit at Marina Tower, we learned that the primary downtown intersection of US-41 and North Gulfstream Avenue was destined for de- and reconstruction. The retention ponds beside us were to be reduced and reconfigured. And the racket, inconvenience and discomfort would be compounded by the eventual reformulation of this major escape route from the barrier islands.

Your sensible support for at least a postponement and perhaps a re-evaluation of this plan is deeply appreciated.

This is the most direct route between the barrier islands and a major hospital. For many, it is their only escape route from mounting climate-related catastrophes. If N. Gulfstream is closed and the Ringling Bridge access road narrowed for an extended period of time, the bridge will become virtually impassable. And that would occur during normal business hours, which has been demonstrated by current events. Imagine an emergency mass evacuation.

My concerns are not limited to the construction phase. At this particular location, the roundabout concept is composed of vapor. Having interviewed a few of the nation’s top traffic engineering experts in the field of roundabouts, I can assert that the rare scientific data are conflicting and unconvincing for this particular type of complex intersection and its jaw-breaking costs. Virtually no models exist for this unique scenario. The ambitious goals cited by its backers lack substantial evidence of attainability in the real world.

This planned roundabout amounts to a very expensive and potentially disastrous experiment on the public.

I am so grateful for your leadership to postpone and reconsider the impact on our community of placing a roundabout at North Gulfstream Avenue, particularly while the Fruitvillle roundabout remains uncompleted and untested. A second look at the science and empirical real-world observations of this type of project may reveal that it threatens, not just an economic challenge (already having ignited a rolling boil among Key residents and visitors due to the current lack of ready-access to the City), but — more significantly — portends a health and safety debacle that could endanger human lives.

Thank you for your responsiveness to and respect for taxpayers’ and tourists’ needs.

Sandra R. Tessler

Sarasota

 

Westin crosswalk adds to traffic

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I would just like to add my input as a Lido resident. The crosswalk at the Ritz/Westin is a major contributor to the problem. This was a bad idea. Block that area of the sidewalk and send people south 75 feet (which is the direction most are going anyway) and a lot of the congestion problem will disappear.

Jeff Plunkett

Sarasota

 

Eager to discuss solutions

To: Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Chair BJ Bishop

Thanks for reaching out to me tonight. I am well aware of the traffic this evening. I was on Lido with my family and documented it. I was appalled, but not shocked. I live less than a mile from downtown and have received hundreds of email on the congestion and have, of course, been a daily victim of it as well.

We did plan family-time this evening for a sunset/dinner picnic at Lido Beach. The plan was to go from 5:30-7 p.m. Then, back to work for me after.

I was happy with the idea of a two-hour break to listen to the waves, watch the sunset, and just relax.

Good news: It was a beautiful sunset and I had sweet family time.

Bad news: As suspected, we would not be able to leave for a couple of hours. (I have a Commission meeting tomorrow, so …)

On our way out to the beach at 5:30 p.m., headed west, the traffic was backed up from Gulfstream/41 all the way to the public beach on Lido (this is about 4.5 mile back-up, bumper to bumper). This lasted from (at least) 5:30 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. I have videos and photos. I have never experienced this kind of heavy traffic in my 49 years in Sarasota.

I have received hundreds of emails about the traffic at the Gulfstream intersection in the last three months and I have been working to try to get a conversation started with FDOT to discuss: immediate solutions, mid-term solutions, and long term solutions. With the help, collaboration, and input from a citizen group, with which I have been working, we have creative, real ideas for all three.

As these roadways are under mostly the purview of FDOT, and not the City of Sarasota, I am very respectfully requesting an urgent meeting with LK Nandam (and others) from FDOT this week if possible.

It was expressed that the “third express lane” would be opened on the 14th of February but that was delayed. I am awaiting clarity from the City Manager and others on this.

At this point, I am not interested in pointing fingers or looking back, at what we should have done.

I am eager to discuss ideas about solutions. Real solutions. This is not my first email communication on the need for a discussion between the City’s professional staff, FDOT, and my group on potentially pausing the Gulfstream Roundabout – for just a moment – and examining data and creative ideas for a robust, long-term solution to addressing the increasing volume of traffic at this intersection, our City and region’s growth, along with a solid plan for treating stormwater, planning for sea-level rise and sunny-day flooding, as well as also creating a third step of incorporating and transforming lanes into dedicated multimodal and micro transportation. The ideas and designs should be for 50 years and for 80-100% congestion relief.

This is a linchpin intersection in the City of Sarasota and for our region. North to South. East to West.

It is essential that it is a high-functioning intersection for both car traffic and pedestrians.

Why spend $25 million on a roundabout for a projected average of 11-35% traffic congestion relief which will last for only 4 years?

I think we can do much better, or at least have an updated discussion. Thank you and I will keep you posted on any responses I receive.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Traffic: let’s inject some sanity

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

I am a 10-year resident and Town Commissioner on Longboat Key. My wife and I have been subscribers to the Ringling Library Association Town Hall Lecture Series at Van Wezel Center for 9 of those years. We should be listening to the 7:30 lecture by Ambassador Wendy Sherman at that Series right now; instead I am writing you this letter.

From many constituent complaints and personal experience, I am well aware of the traffic problems we face in the area, so we left early for Van Wezel tonight. By 7:25 we had barely made it to St. Armands Circle and faced an unmoving line of cars trying to get downtown. This was not 4 p.m. beach traffic, 5 p.m. work release or 6 p.m. diners; this was 7:25 p.m. on a Monday evening. I have never seen anything like this in 10 years on the island.

Sarasota is a wonderful city. Many people subscribe to its arts, cultural and educational offerings, as well as enjoy the entertainment and dining downtown. Many people on Ringling Bridge tonight flushed the $10 or $100 they had paid for a ticket to one of these features, turned around and went home. They won’t do this forever and we all will end up suffering.

One specific complaint and one specific suggestion. The complaint: Ten days ago, Sarasota announced that the third turn lane to North 41 would likely be re-opened by this past weekend, relieving the main bottleneck to traffic downtown. Then on Friday, “last weekend” became “maybe early March”. For people who spend two weeks or two months in the area during Season, that’s an enormous difference. Moreover, no one has ever offered a cogent explanation of why that lane needed to be closed at all during the Fruitville Road Project, as no construction has ever gone on in that area, and certainly none at night.

The suggestion: Ms Ahearn-Koch, I think a light bulb went off for you recently when you said we need a breather from road construction in Sarasota, at least during Season. Most specifically, we need an indefinite postponement of the planned roundabout at Gulfstream and 41, the site of tonight’s mind numbing problem. If the closing of one lane at that juncture causes the dislocation we have seen, imagine what pain a 2+ year project covering the entire intersection would inflict. That Gulfstream project is planned to start at the beginning of our next Season (October 2020), before we know the Fruitville roundabout will be completed and at a cost of $20 million. What could be more absurd.

Please give our residents, our merchants, our artists and performers a break, and give us, their representatives, a chance to inject some sanity into the conversation about construction and traffic in Sarasota. Thank you.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Our lifestyle is fading to black

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I am among your first correspondents who expressed gratitude for your awareness of — and sensitivity — to this issue.

I remain uninformed about how a city in Florida can reclaim its rights from the tone-deaf State that is manipulating its future. Are there any legal rights we could summon to challenge the FDOT to — at the very least — postpone proceeding with the potentially damaging Gulfstream roundabout?

Why is the FDOT so compulsive about not providing a reasonable stop-gap, exploratory request from the local population? Opposition to the roundabout at the crucial intersection of the Barrier Island exit bridge was further fueled by your citation that it had achieved approval by claiming vastly overstated statistics for the $26 million project’s success.

The current success of the N. Gulfstream roundabout is proudly reported by its proponents to have been justified for 20 years. Just the fact of the age of these conclusions (which, you have noted, have been subsequently greatly diminished) is enough to clue your informed constituents to the inherent inadequacy of decades-old deeds addressing current determinations and needs. Over merely the past 10 years, within the singular arena of medical science, our world has achieved lower cancer mortality rates, 3-D organ printing and imaging, gene therapy, long-term remission of HIV, cancer immunotherapy, face transplantation and nanorobotics, to name a few. How can statistical, demonstrable progress be so embraced in one dimension and so ignored in others?

Many objective observers, who have missed concerts, lectures, doctors’ appointments, flights, etc., because of the traffic backups, have expressed their suspicions of political paybacks at the root, and even deeper levels of inappropriate, ill-timed government interventions. This wariness may not accurately suggest the cause, but when a governmental body achieves a total shutdown of public opinion, its non-responsiveness inspires a trend in cynical thinking.

To all of my neighbors with an interrogative mindset who are reading this: Isn’t it time for a public assembly of those holding a majority opinion, whose own lives and property values are at stake here?

I would suggest we adopt black as “our color.” Decidedly not a Florida hue, black is the color of demise — representing the fatalistic dismantling of our comfort, our safety, our commercial/tourism success, and our ability to live freely within our borders.

Your and my individual letters are, ultimately, weightless without a community-wide response. Perhaps, to achieve statewide attention, we must assemble a huge display at a public event, with all dressed in the color of mourning for a lifestyle that is fading.

Sandra R. Tessler

Sarasota

 

Current traffic situation

To: Longboat Key officials, residents

This is my fourth (different) group email update and response on traffic in the last ten days, so my apologies across the board for not answering each email individually, but I have pasted in each (I hope) of your emails (since Thursday, Feb 20, 2020) for reference.

This is where we are, basically, today, Saturday, February 22, 2020.

The traffic at Gulfstream and US41 and along the Bayfront and Fruitville Road is very bad, especially from approximately 4:30-8:30pm, depending on weather and other variables. The serious concerns, across the board, are safety, economic, quality-of-life, tourism, and more.

I have been in constant communications with the community (both email and phone conversations), with FDOT, and with the City Manager. I am asking for us to look for creative immediate, mid-term, and long-term solutions.

Thank you all, as well, for offering solutions and ideas to improve the traffic. I have noted them and will add them to the conversation. Remember, the third express lane idea was brought to us by citizens.

Starting with the immediate/mid-term:

The third express lane, which we all agree helped the traffic this past season, was recently closed due to construction at the Quay (to install a baffle box which will drastically improve the flooding at that intersection). I have received updated information that The Quay is working on efficiencies in installing the baffle box.

The City Manager and I met this morning on site, and are hopefully going to work with FDOT and the Quay to assess the situation with all the parties to see if there are safe solutions that might be quickly implemented. We will update the community once we have a better idea.

Future:

The City Manager Tom Barwin and I are meeting with the FDOT District 1 Secretary on Monday. I am hopeful we will have a serious conversation on potentially pausing the Gulfstream roundabout construction.

We are working on resolving the situation in a safe and timely manner, and your patience is appreciated. I know it is unbearable but please know we are trying.

PS: Below I have pasted in some text from my previous emails to help with context and directional focus:

“At this point, I am not interested in pointing fingers or looking back, at what we should have done. I am eager to discuss ideas about solutions. Real solutions. This is not my first email communication on the need for a discussion between the City’s professional staff, FDOT, and my group on potentially pausing the Gulfstream Roundabout – for just a moment – and examining data and creative ideas for a robust, long-term solution to addressing the increasing volume of traffic at this intersection, our City and region’s growth, along with a solid plan for treating stormwater, planning for sea-level rise and sunny-day flooding, as well as also creating a third step of incorporating and transforming lanes into dedicated multimodal and micro transportation. The ideas and designs should be for 50 years and for 80-100% congestion relief. This is a linchpin intersection in the City of Sarasota and for our region. North to South. East to West.  It is essential that it is a high-functioning intersection for both car traffic and pedestrians.”

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Trapped on St. Armands

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We met at the St. Armands Residents Association meeting a while ago. Thank you for everything you are doing to help regarding the Hotel House situation and with the traffic issues. I’m guessing that the more residents you hear from the better in being able to press upon others the need for an urgent solution to the traffic issue. We live at 47 N Washington Dr (3rd house in from Ringling Blvd) and feel helplessly stuck with how bad the traffic has become on N Washington. We have only been here two years but have seen a huge increase this winter as compared to the last two. This year we feel trapped from about 1:30pm until about 7:30pm unable to take the car in any direction without being in a traffic jam. Even to go to Publix on Long Boat in the afternoon means being stuck on our own street in the long (and growing by the day) line of traffic backed up on N Washington using the road as a cut off to/from Long Boat. Last night at around 6:15pm I walked down N Washington toward Presidents to see how far the traffic was backed up. It was from Ringling almost all the way to Presidents Blvd. The attached photo shows that it backed all the way past 213 N Washington heading toward the bridge onto Ringling Blvd. We also have heard a noticeable increase of honking horns this year as well as Harley’s reviving that you can hear everywhere in the house for the 10 minutes or so that it takes for them to slowly meander by the house in traffic.

It’s so bad that we are regretting that we bought here. We are just one household but I am guessing that many here on St Armands/Lido are doing as we are and are opting to not going downtown to eat out or do other activities over the bridge like we normally would be due to this traffic. The backups last year where mildly an issue but this year we are simply not going to eat out in the many great restaurants that were part of our reason in deciding to move here because to sit in this traffic is just not worth it. The one reservation we did have recently we had to call the restaurant from the car to hope they would hold the reservation since we would be late due to traffic being far worse than anyone could have predicted.

Thank you for all you’re doing to try to solve this issue. We love it here and hope that you are successful in getting some changes to take place very soon so that we feel like we have a future here.

LeeAnn & David Modestino

Sarasota

 

Traffic: have you witnessed the mess?

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

My name is Lana McDonald and I am a full time resident on one of the barrier islands. Decisions made by the city of Sarasota impact our daily lives.

I have been here since 1988 and have witnessed the good and the bad of increased population. The unchecked growth of buildings, that are built right up to the streets, being just one of the questionable decisions. There is now no way to widen those roads for evacuation or traffic flow. Just look at Fruitville Road.

Last week in the Herald Tribune you were quoted that the third lane onto Tamiami trail would be open around February 15. Pray tell where was the information gathered? Have you been there to witness what a mess that road is? For those of us who work and have to come across the bridge daily it is a nightmare. At least 1-2 hours can be added coming into Sarasota to the daily commute.

I understand that the town council and the Mayor’s office doesn’t think the Barrier Islands and St. Armand’s are their concern but perhaps when the impact of decreased visitor revenue starts to hit in the Sarasota wallet you might have second thoughts. I pray no one loses a life while trying to get to Sarasota Memorial stuck in that traffic. We are so construction weary.

Lana McDonald

Sarasota

 

Traffic was worse than ever

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I live on Lido and today the traffic was worse than ever. I am not able to leave my house unless I plan on sitting in traffic for an hour. It is only a couple of miles from my house to the mainland! Ugh! Why do we have to pay such a high price for the roundabout? Take the barrels down during the day and work at night! Other states work on road construction. When can’t we? This is a pathetic and frustrating situation!

Sandra Podolak

Sarasota

 

Impossible to plan with traffic

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahern-Koch

This morning I read of your concern regarding the proposed traffic roundabout at Gulfstream and 41. As you know, traffic has become a disaster exiting Longboat Key and St. Armand’s Circle. I own two homes and a business on Longboat Key and I now find it impossible to plan for dinners, shopping and entertainment in Sarasota. As a result, I discourage my friends and colleagues from going to the city in favor of just staying on Longboat.

I believe another roundabout at Gulfstream and 41 would result in a permanent traffic nightmare and I applaud your decision to put the brakes on.

This plan was not well thought out and the proof is seen on the road every day.

Please stay the course and put an end to our traffic nightmare.

Michael D. Madden

Managing Partner

BlackEagle Partners, LLC

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

I suggest a wait and see how the 3 roundabouts under construction function before running blindly into the major one at the end of the bridge. I hear how wonderful they are supposed to be…however, let’s wait and see. I personally have my doubts!

Regina Fulton

Sarasota

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

We are long time residents of Bird Key and are suffering along with everyone else with the awful delays caused by the construction work at the junction of Fruitville and 41. Today, Saturday, from Bird Key Drive to 41 took a full 30 minutes because of a lane closure at the junction of John Ringling and Golden Gate.

Please give us a break. You will remember the ‘best small city’ accolades we had not so along ago. Now we are a joke with major road works scheduled for our busiest time of the year. We can do better. You know that.

David and Sandra Openshaw

Sarasota

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota City Mayor Jen Ahearn-och

Hi Distinguished mayor! I know this is not news, but the construction of roundabouts during season makes it very difficult to get off the barrier island into the City. Off season would be better…and one project at a time. If there were an emergency, we would be in deep trouble out here!

Just putting my two cents in.

It is a mess! Traffic backed up going into town! Thanks. Hope you can help with this DOT issue!

Carolyn Michel

Sarasota

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota City Commission

I volunteer at Mote in the afternoons, and I live in downtown Sarasota. Nice easy trip. But not anymore, and no end in sight. If I get home in an hour, I consider it a “good” trip.

More important though, in my role I interact with many out-of-towners; snowbirds and visitors. I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years. This year, the guest interactions are different – so many are spontaneously bringing up traffic issues. Red tide is an afterthought now. Lots have said something to the effect “I’m not doing this again.” One example – a woman was here for a rowing event. She decided she wanted to stay near the beach rather than out in Lakewood ranch, so she booked a hotel on the Key. But after two days of trying to get to things downtown, she felt she was “trapped” on the Key, and was moving to a room on the mainland. Word is getting out – tourism is important to our area, and what is happening now is threatening that.

God help me if I have an emergency medical condition and have to get to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. I fear a helicopter would be needed. If traffic is backed up through the circle, there is nowhere for anyone on Coon Bridge to move over. I for the life of me do not know why this construction is being done in season. It seems to me that you want to make Sarasota and it’s surroundings a walking city. Many of us at our age have difficulty walking and need to use our cars. Yesterday I called the Town Commission office. I was redirected to Tom Barwin. I was so frustrated sitting in traffic at St. Armands Circle. All of a sudden you come upon a merge right before a crosswalk. Was there a policeman there to gather the pedestrians? No! Why are they allowed to continue to straggle across the street at whim? During construction why can’t they be held for a bit and cross as a group? Also, we received no notification so that we would know to add additional time to our travel. Doctor and dentist appointments have been missed. Airline flights missed. People aren’t using their tickets to the Asolo, FST, WCBT, the Van Wezel, the Opera, etc because they never know how much time to allow to get to their destinations.

Another problem spot, in my opinion, is the walk light at the Westin just before Fruitville on 41. Numerous times traffic tries to get through the light at Gulfstream and 41, only to have the light change and thus the lane becomes blocked and no one can move until the walk light turns green.

As I told Mr. Barwin, a simple solution would be for someone in the City of Sarasota to inform the Longboat Key Condo Federation www.federationoflbk.com about disruptions in traffic. The Federation could then inform the condo managers who then could inform the lowly people of LBK of traffic nightmares. It would at least let us know if we need to allow additional time. Having traffic backed up from Publix across the John Ringling Bridge is just not acceptable.

To me it seems as though not only is the roundabout construction and the closure of the turning lane causing a problem, but also the traffic coming into the circle going to Lido where the cars have to merge with those trying to get into the circle. Has that area ever been looked at? Maybe a through lane going over or under the circle or a route through the neighborhood avoiding the circle? I was happy to hear that the roundabout at Gulfstream and 41 is being looked at again. I for the life of me cannot see how a roundabout will help that intersection. Just going out to UTC and seeing people who do not know what to do in a roundabout amazes me. I don’t believe that we would ever get into the roundabout coming off the key.

Not only is the traffic situation a safety factor, I can’t imagine what it is doing to real estate values on the Key. Who would want to deal with this traffic nightmare? Please – let’s have a little bit better planning and remember those who cannot walk far and who need their cars for transportation. Traffic today at 2:15 p.m. the traffic was already backed up to Plymouth Harbor. Help!

Elaine Meurer

Sarasota

 

Traffic

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

My name is Lana McDonald and I am a full time resident on one of the barrier islands. Decisions made by the city of Sarasota impact our daily lives.

I have been here since 1988 and have witnessed the good and the bad of increased population. The unchecked growth of buildings, that are built right up to the streets, being just one of the questionable decisions. There is now no way to widen those roads for evacuation or traffic flow. Just look at Fruitville road.

Last week in the Herald Tribune you were quoted that the third lane onto Tamiami trail would be open around February 15. Pray tell where was the information gathered? Have you been there to witness what a mess that road is? For those of us who work and have to come across the bridge daily it is a nightmare. At least 1-2 hours can be added coming into Sarasota to the daily commute.

I understand that the town council and the Mayor’s office doesn’t think the Barrier Islands and St. Armand’s are their concern but perhaps when the impact of decreased visitor revenue starts to hit in the Sarasota wallet you might have second thoughts. I pray no one loses a life while trying to get to Sarasota Memorial stuck in that traffic. We are so construction weary.

Lana McDonald

 

Traffic

To: Editor

We have been wintering on Longboat Key for six seasons. Each year has seen more and more traffic congestion. While we enjoy the climate here, this year’s traffic may be our last. One example: on President’s Day, it took us two hours to get from Longboat to Selva Grille on Main Street in Sarasota. It was about an 18-mile trip. Ridiculous.

Fred Stuart

Philadelphia

 

Current Traffic Situation (from a visitor’s and former resident’s perspective)

To: Sarasota City officials, Longboat Key officials, Anna Maria officials

My wife and I used to own a villa in Cambridge Village (Bradenton) from 2011 to 2015. We sold that residence and moved to Stoneybrook Estates (Sarasota) in 2015 and sold it in 2018 to move back to WV to be closer to children and grandchildren.

We decided to rent this season on Longboat Key. While we enjoy the beach, the vibrant arts culture here, and the diverse culinary offerings, we are seriously questioning whether to return here as seasonal visitors due to the seemingly unmanageable traffic situation.

Regardless of where we go, residents and visitors alike have commented “this is the worst traffic ever.” I realize there are construction projects and I’ve read newspaper articles about the need for better planning, coordination, advocacy, and timing of such projects, but I have not read anything about reasonable and long-term solutions.

In the interest of dialogue and discussion, I’ll offer a few common sense suggestions. Lest you think I am just a whiny vacationer, I retired as Director of Government Relations for Verizon WV and served as our lobbyist and external affairs manager for a 20-County area, and I am used to working with and communicating with government officials at all levels.

Herewith, not in any particular order:

1. Consider a moratorium on new developments. Just in our time here, I have witnessed the construction of Embassy Suites; Westin Hotel; the Vue, several new high rises near Gulfstream and a new project underway on the old Quay site. Add to that the preponderance of new residential developments (ex: Honare; east towards I-75; Lakewood Ranch; and countless others), and you have traffic congestion and gridlock at times.

2. Related to number 1, the ever-increasing traffic problems raise legitimate safety concerns. Local emergency authorities cannot access people in need if traffic is blocked (ex: Cortez Road; St. Armands and Ringling Bridge). This month (February, 2020), I have witnessed the closing of the bridge heading north from LBK to Coquina due to downed power lines; one-lane traffic in Bradenton Beach all month as a water main is replaced; and taking more than 2 hours to return to our rented condo on LBK due to Cortez Road backing up on the mainland to nearly 75th street. I must ask, at what price is progress worth, if folks cannot depend on the availability of fire, police and emergency services?

3. Consider the construction of a new bridge(s). I realize local folks want to preserve the Cortez fishing village and its distinctive heritage, and I’ve been told residents of LBK don’t want another bridge anywhere between Cortez and St. Armands. However, at some point, you collectively have to do something. One resident told me traffic has been an increasing problem for decades. An alternative: is there a way to build an overpass bridge on top of the Cortez bridge? Have the existing bridge traffic turn right for Holmes Beach, and the higher lanes turn left for LBK. In my humble opinion, doing nothing in terms of new bridges is not an option. Sooner or later, some visitors will stop coming and property values will decline if people cannot reasonably access their homes and rental condos.

4. Consider the use of ferries to transport vehicles and/or residents from Bradenton and Sarasota to the beaches. Passenger trolleys won’t work because they would simply sit in traffic like the cars do now. I’m not an engineer, but innovative bridge solutions and efficient modes of moving people should be considered for the long term.

I truly hope you folks will sit down and discuss any and all solutions to alleviate the traffic congestion. As an old grad school professor once told our class, “not to decide is to decide.”

I did not come here with the intention of taking vacation time to articulate my views on this problem. That said, I have listened to restaurateurs, workers, renters, and residents. They all say the same thing. Something has to be done.

I’ve heard of a worker running out of gas sitting in traffic on LBK; a manager who said it takes him more than 2 hours to return home in the evening from LBK; a visitor who said it took him more than 3 and 1/2 hours to go to Walgreen’s on Cortez (from LBK) for meds and return via U.S 41 and the Ringling Bridge to his rental condo on LBK; a waiter who said the traffic is hurting their business on Bradenton Beach because people with reservations cannot get there and turn around without dining. I’m just one person, but I believe I speak for a lot of people.

Sam Cipoletti

Cross Lanes, WV

 

Traffic

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Living on LBK is heavenly until you want to travel to Sarasota to shop and eat at a restaurant. We can’t eat out at our favorite restaurants in Sarasota anymore due to traffic backups. Please get this problem fixed.

Mary Ann Graf

Longboat Key

 

Tennis Center concerns

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Jack Daly

Hi Jack, I don’t usually get involved in the Longboat Key town business but the consultant that has been hired to assess the Tennis Center and the cost of said consultant has gotten my attention. I met with the man along with other employees that work the desk at the Tennis Center a few weeks ago. I thought he was more interested in telling of his background and experiences than in what we had to say. The questionnaire that he gave us to fill out was vague and in my opinion not relevant. We were never told what the purpose of this exercise was or given any feedback as to his findings and recommendations. Now he is back to meet with more people which I find a complete waste of time and a waste of the town’s (my tax dollars) money. To my knowledge it has never been communicated to anyone at the TC what the purpose or intended outcome of this exercise is. I am not sure what your view of this is, but as a taxpayer on Longboat Key and an employee of the Tennis Center my assessment is that hiring a consultant to do what this man is doing is irresponsible and a bad decision.

Phil Smith

Longboat Key

 

Tennis Center concerns

To: Phil Smith

I really appreciate and encourage your input with respect to the Tennis Center and any other Town issues. By this note, I am asking Staff to promptly respond in detail to your comments. When I became aware of the consultant’s review, I touched base with The Town Manager and requested to be kept in the loop with respect to the review, and I briefly touched base with Kay and a few others. My general overview is that it makes sense to conduct a professional independent analysis of the operations, maintenance and staffing at the Center in order to assure an efficient operation, like any other Town service provided. Frankly, I was on the fence whether I should have personally gotten involved with the consultant during this stage, but concluded it was best to wait until later in the process. Phil, be assured that your concerns will be responded to promptly and that I will keep you informed going forward.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Only a bold idea will untie the circle in a knot

To: City of Sarasota officials

Under this title I wrote an article in August 2010, nearly ten years ago, which the Sarasota Herald Tribune failed to publish. The problems are still with us, they have only gotten worse! Speed bumps and crossing guards are no solution; they cannot even be considered a band-aid!

Therefore I am now addressing my identical message to a wider audience, some of whom may be receptive to a constructive long-term solution.

As a legal Dutch immigrant living in Sarasota for nearly twenty years, I have been inspired by my fellow countrymen to propose a radical solution to the St. Armand’s Circle traffic problem: “Put the traffic underground!”

All car traffic transiting to/from Longboat Key to/from the mainland (i.e. Boulevard of the Presidents on the one side and John Ringling Boulevard on the other) should pass through a tunnel with one lane in each direction, reserved for cars, not HGV’s or buses. The ramps can be placed in the central lawn between the lanes of the Boulevards between Washington Dr. and Adams Dr. on Ringling and between Arthur Dr. and Washington Dr. on Boulevard of the Presidents.

For most of the day, the Circle will become a pedestrian zone (with limited access only for deliveries during certain hours).

The tunnels can be of a caisson type, prepared offsite and hoisted into place on pilings/foundations, which will reduce the time needed for construction.

A canopy structure above the entrance and exit ramps, combined with an elevated threshold will avoid excessive rain penetration during the wet season. The remaining quantity of penetrating rainwater and any seepage can be handled by appropriately sized pumps.

Of course, during the construction period, primarily the north side of the Circle (in front of Starbucks and Columbia Restaurant) will be seriously affected, but no major project can be accomplished without creating some disturbances. However, proper planning and a round the clock execution of the project can reduce the disturbance to an acceptable level and time frame. Of course I understand that sewers, water and electricity lines need rerouting creating additional complexity, but professional project management should be up to such a task.

HGV traffic to and from Longboat Key must be restricted timewise and/or diverted via Washington Dr. or the north bridge to Longboat Key. John Ringling would be proud to give the Circle back to the people! This idea merits some serious attention! Sarasota residents and our tourists will be delighted by a longer term forward looking solution to our current logjam.

Karel van Hinloopen Labberton

Sarasota

 

Traffic

To: Tom Harmer

I would like to take a closer look at the study we commissioned last year challenging the Gulfstream / US 41 roundabout project. I believed it called into question a number of the assumptions used by FDOT and should be highlighted as part of the renewed debate over the wisdom of the plan, especially in light of comments like those of Assistant Sarasota City Engineer Ohrenstein quoted in yesterday’s newspaper: “As staff receive daily indications of the discontent of motorists waiting along John Ringling Causeway, this project is a timely and fortunate solution.”

This would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. While the purpose and effect of the Gulfstream / US 41 roundabout are at best questionable, the disruption that would be caused by 2 plus years of construction at that intersection would make this year’s misery look like a walk in the park.

P.S. After failing to reach even St. Armand’s Circle yesterday after almost an hour on the road, I missed the 4 p.m. meeting of the County Tourist Development Council downtown. All arteries into St. Armand’s and John Ringling Causeway were stopped dead.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

CDM Smith analysis of traffic and proposed roundabout

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

Thanks for supplying the 2018 CDM Smith study commissioned by Longboat Key to review the FDOT modeling for the proposed Gulfstream/41 roundabout.  To summarize in layman’s terms, it seems the CDM study shows that FDOT assumes less than half the recent annual traffic growth rate for that intersection going forward, even though the largest traffic producing projects are currently under development.  It also seems both that FDOT’s software was incorrectly applied for the comparison at hand and that the study incorrectly reflected the format of the proposed roundabout and its approaches; nevertheless, the most relevant software tested (Synchro) determined the roundabout would produce an “F” level of service at 3 of the 4 approaches, while the “No Build” option would produce none.  Finally, as we have argued repeatedly, CDM questions the rush to analyze the “No Build” vs. Roundabout options in theory, when real data from the current, 3-left-turn configuration will be available once it is allowed to operate during a full Season. I think it will be very useful for Mayor Ahearn-Koch and the Sarasota City Commission to see this information.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

FDOT and City of Sarasota meeting regarding traffic

To: Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

In anticipation of your meeting on Monday with FDOT Secretary LK Nandam, I am forwarding for your information a copy of the peer review commissioned by Longboat Key conducted by CDM Smith of FDOT’s consultant with respect to the proposed roundabout at the Gulfstream / US 41 intersection. I offer just two highlights for your consideration. First: most importantly, CDM Smith concluded that it could not agree that the proposed roundabout would indeed be superior to the current configuration, consisting of three left turn lanes going east off the bridge and then north on US41, with  a continuous right lane  going east on Fruitville Rd. Second: The estimated traffic growth used by FDOT (0.56% per year) was too low, compared to (0.96% per year) included in the MPO’s analysis for Sarasota County through 2045. CDM Smith also concluded in its analysis that, as traffic flows increase, the present configuration operates better than the proposed roundabout alternative. Finally, as I have previously stated, with respect to the current traffic congestion issues, when compared to last year’s peak season which was relative mild, the ongoing construction is obviously a main contributing factor. Accordingly, as you have pointed out, we need to take steps to ensure that the current construction on the US 41 corridor is absolutely and fully completed before beginning any construction on this crucial intersection, at least until after next year’s peak season. Among other benefits, this will enable a comprehensive analysis and comparison of traffic flows for the existing configuration and the proposed roundabout, which, in my opinion, was really not fully achieved last year. Jen, again, many thanks for all your efforts to address the current issues and to reconsider what’s the best long term solution for this most critical intersection.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Water taxis

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Mr. Barwin, Thank you for your note.

One of the important things Longboat recognized more than 30 years ago was the town must put a limit on residential density based on infrastructure and utilities.  We have held firm on that important issue.

Many jurisdictions with inadequate infrastructure such as the City of Sarasota have created adequate public facilities ordinances so existing residents are not burdened with development without infrastructure.  Perhaps you need to explore that. It will not solve current problems, but I have always been an advocate of long range planning.

Water taxis are a fine idea, but should have been implemented prior to the paralyzing traffic. I already cycle, but the blockage on Coon Key makes that unsafe. Let’s ensure those opportunities are explored for the future, but creating parking and adequate transportation at either end of water taxis may create unintended consequences.

BJ Webb Bishop

Planning and Zoning Board Chair

Town of Longboat Key

 

Daylight Plane

To: Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons

As promised, this supplements my February 17 note (below) concerning the “mass” of some new construction in residential zones.  First, I think my Feb 17 note is a pretty comprehensive statement of my views on the matter, and that your description of it at the February 19 P and Z meeting was accurate with one exception:  In my proposal, a project that failed the second daylight plane test (from base elevation) would be required to “incorporate design features that mitigate for mass”, while your explanation at P and Z was that such a failure would require protection of neighbors from overlooking views and the like by, say, relocating windows. At our February 18 Commission meeting, I did propose that tall construction be required to take into account views overlooking neighboring yards, pools and patios, but that was an independent consideration, separate from the two-part daylight plane idea.

More broadly, I was troubled that the P and Z elected to return to the Commission exactly the same proposal that had not been favorably received by us the day before.  We have discussed why that may have happened, but I think the general problem was that we didn’t provide clear guidance to P and Z, and the little guidance we did provide couldn’t be transmitted coherently to the P and Z in the 12 hours between our meetings.  So, we are nearly back at square one.  The Commission will ultimately need to decide this question, but maybe some common ground can be reached.

The “mass” issue was first raised by Buttonwood residents in reaction to two tall, block-shaped homes built at the intersection of Buttonwood and GMD that dwarfed their existing neighbor to the east, on Buttonwood Road.  There was some consensus that this was a recurring issue throughout the island and should be addressed.  One P and Z conclusion is to require appropriate screening between residential properties, which is not currently required. This is a good idea.

Beyond screening, P and Z’s sole proposal is to increase the daylight plane angle from 50-65 degrees, to a one-size-fits-all 75 degrees.  The effects of this would be to allow taller and blockier homes than now permitted (greater angle equals greater height), and to eliminate the “muting of mass” now required by the decreasing of the daylight angle for wider lots.  As these changes would only exacerbate the “mass” issue we were trying to solve, I would vote to leave the daylight plane requirements as they are rather than enact these changes.  However, I think we can effect a modest improvement to the current rules with the two-part daylight plane proposal I suggested:  If the second angle test is failed– from base elevation, as the Buttonwood homes would do– the developer would need to make some architectural adjustments in the upper story to mitigate the “mass at height”.  Interestingly, this is exactly the kind of change represented in the photograph that both the Commission and P and Z lingered on during our meetings–the blocky house next to the slope roofed house.  I think that was our goal, and this might help achieve it.

As mentioned above, I also suggest we give more thought to whether the developer of a new, tall house should be encouraged to avoid high windows that peer into existing neighbors backyards, pools or patios.  While both this idea and the second daylight plane test might involve the town in administering some subjective guidelines vs. objective rules, these would involve only modest design elements (well beneath the level of a Bert Harris “taking”).  I agree that we should not be in the business of designing peoples’ homes for them; but we do owe it to the community to take some steps to avoid an island of blockhouse neighborhoods while we still can.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Daylight Plane

To: Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons

I have read the materials for Tuesday’s Workshop regarding possible ordinance changes to address overbuilt residential properties.  I have one suggestion I thought I would raise in advance so that you might give it some thought:  First, I would resist the proposed change that would create only one daylight plane angle for all sized lots–I think the sliding scale addresses the different needs of different neighborhoods.  I also think the idea of measuring daylight plane from base elevation but increasing the angle to 75 degrees would allow for more height and mass than presently allowed, which is in my view undesirable.

My idea would be to keep the sliding scale with the current daylight plane angles based on lot width.  Then apply the applicable angle twice to any proposed construction.  First, any proposal that fails the daylight plane test from the design flood elevation (the current rule) would be prohibited.  Second, any proposal that fails the same daylight plane test from base elevation (the new test) would be required to incorporate design features to mitigate for mass, e.g., second story setbacks, roofline variations, etc.  This would be a relatively simple enhancement to our current rules that, when added to additional privacy requirements, could reduce “overwhelmingness” with minimal impairment of development rights.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

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