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News Worthy week ending February 28, 2020

Pence meets Florida’s governor on corona virus, shuts down roadways en route to Longboat fundraiser

On Friday, the Vice President landed at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport around 3 pm. He held a fundraiser at Congressman Vern Buchanan’s home on Longboat Key. The event led to road closures from Downtown Sarasota to Longboat for a total of two hours. This was Panece’s first trip out of Washington since President Trump assigned him for as heading the effort to deal with the Corona Virus.

He met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss preparedness for the epidemic at the Palm Beach International Airport after Wednesday reports that Pence would be attending a fundraiser nearby for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

There are no known cases of the coronavirus in Florida.

Tickets to the fundraising event at Rep. Vern Buchanan’s beachfront house on Longboat Key reportedly ranged from $2,500 to get in the door to $5,000 to take a picture with the vice president and $25,000 for dinner.

City commissioners oppose bill ending New College independence

City Commissioners plan to send a letter to state lawmakers that opposes the effort by Florida lawmakers to eliminate the independent status of New College of Florida and Florida Polytechnic University within the state university system.

Commissioners may express “strong opposition” to the bill, which cleared a final House committee on Tuesday, according to a draft letter addressed to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva.

“We staunchly oppose consolidating New College into another state university system and support their continued independence,” wrote Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, who signed the letter.

The letter came at the request of Commissioner Hagen Brody. City commissioners will consider sending the letter at its regular commission at City Hall on Monday.

Electrical fire damages condos on Longboat

An electrical fire damaged a condo building on Longboat Key Thursday morning.

Fire crews were called around 9:30am to the 5300 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive. The blaze broke out in the microwave in the kitchen of one unit in a two-story, eight condo complex and extended up into the attic.

Firefighters were able to quickly bring the fire under control, but two of the units were damaged and are unlivable. Red Cross and the property management company are assisting residents.

Longboat Key police closed both lanes of Gulf of Mexico Drive and reopened one lane for the duration of the incident. All lanes reopened by 11:15 a.m.

There were no injuries.

Bike Sharing program Expanded

The City recently added another self-service bicycle rental station at its Downtown Palm Avenue Garage. It offers about 10 bikes for hourly or daily rental via phone or online through local company I Bike Sarasota. The bikes can be returned to either the Palm Avenue or St. Armands Garage location.

Grand Re-opening – Paul Thorpe Jr. Park

and Lemon Avenue on March 6

The City of Sarasota is throwing a block party next Friday, March 6 from 5-8 p.m. to celebrate the grand re-opening of Paul Thorpe Jr. Park and the completion of the Lemon Avenue Streetscape project.

The free event, featuring live music and refreshments, will start at the park at 5 p.m. and will flow into a portion of the newly renovated Lemon Avenue, which will be temporarily closed to vehicles from State St. to Pineapple Ave. for the celebration.

The redesign of Lemon Ave. and renovation of Paul Thorpe Jr. Park removed curbs and installed decorative brick pavers, new landscaping and streetlights. The park is a tribute to Paul Thorpe, known to many as “Mr. Downtown”. He strived to make downtown a vibrant destination

US 41-Fruitville Rd. Roundabout – Traffic Changes Start Week of March 1

The new temporary traffic patterns for the US 41-Fruitville Road roundabout are set to begin the week of March 1. To minimize impacts, the shifts will occur overnight. While the contractor has a lot of work to do yet, they are cautiously optimistic the traffic shifts will occur over two nights this coming Monday and Tuesday. The construction crew lost nearly a day’s work due to a mandated shutdown to accommodate Vice President Mike Pence traveling through Sarasota on US 41 today (Feb. 28).

March 1-2: Sunday night/Monday morning:

SB US 41 will be shifted onto the new diversion road so the roundabout can be constructed to the east.

Left turn from NB US 41 to WB Boulevard of the Arts will be reinstated.

WB Fruitville Rd. from Cocoanut Ave. to US 41 will be closed to vehicular traffic. This will remain in effect through Summer 2020.

March 2-3: Monday night/Tuesday morning:

NB US 41 will be shifted onto the new diversion road so the roundabout can be constructed to the east.

Third left turn from EB Gulfstream Ave. to NB US 41 will return.

On the second day of transition, the traffic signal at Fruitville Rd. will no longer be operational. It’s important to note, though, that eastbound Fruitville Rd. will remain open throughout the entire project.

Placed in and around the city, seven large electronic message boards are now flashing and announcing the new traffic patterns. The project team has been in touch with Google Maps and Waze, which have agreed to display the road closures and alternate routes on their mobile apps.

While reinstating the third left turn lane coming off the Ringling Bridge will facilitate northbound traffic flow, heading westbound to go to the barrier islands will be more challenging. Westbound motorists on Fruitville Rd. will need to use the signed detour from Fruitville Rd. onto Lemon Ave. to 10th St in order to get to US 41 where they can then go north or southbound. The City encourages drivers to consider alternate paths.

For those interested and able to walk or bicycle, a temporary multi-use recreational sidewalk up to 12 feet wide will be open to the west of the diversion road on the Quay property. This will be beneficial for visitors who will be able to venture on foot or bike from Boulevard of the Arts to the Bayfront.

Please note: The City project team is coordinating with the SPD Traffic Unit, which will be on site monitoring traffic.

Based on independent engineering analysis, according to the City, the Fruitville roundabout will cut traffic wait time in half when compared to a traditional signalized intersection. In addition to boosting traffic flow, the roundabout will increase safety for both motorists and pedestrians says City Manager Tom Barwin.

“The enhanced safety is why FDOT requires roundabouts to be considered first when modifications are made to an intersection. Due to the design, roundabouts reduce vehicle conflicts, such as head-on and side collisions, by 75 percent. For pedestrians the conflicts are cut by 50 percent,” says Barwin.

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