|

Editorial Letters – Week ending March 6, 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.

How we should build a future at Town Center

To: Editor

There is an operational and cost advantage to having one unified campus for both cultural arts and recreation on Longboat Key. A collaboration of diverse user groups in one new state of the art facility at the 5-acre former Amore site makes abundant sense. There should be a “Strategic Master Plan” that provides the framework to guide decision making to meet the current and future land use, cultural arts and recreational needs of Longboat Key. There also needs to be a thorough facilities analysis of the recreational sports and programs currently offered on Longboat as a significant part of that Master Plan. Each and every aspect must be taken into careful consideration so that there is proper long range planning that makes the best use of the available land space on Longboat.

The loss of the former 65-year-old LBK Center for the Arts was a significant and painful blow to all those residents that supported and enjoyed the many programs that were offered by the center. Additionally, the size and condition of the Bayfront Recreation Center is not adequately meeting the needs of residents who are interested in their classes. It’s time to put our heads together to combine fitness and art into one new breed of Community Center. Programs that combine body and mind have successfully proven to create better mental and emotional health as well as overall increased longevity. Longboat Key needs a place where the boundaries between cultural arts and recreation blend into one unified approach towards wellness of the body and the mind. Offerings of culinary and nutrition classes, art studios, movement and exercise classes, workshops, lectures, meeting and event rental opportunities with a commercial kitchen, bridge, dominoes, chess, craft activities and a whole host of community generated programs should be offered in one multi-use facility. Let’s begin the hard work today to build a useful, beautiful, well thought out facility that addresses all the needs of Longboat Key and unifies all the programs at one site.

Sara Scott Cullen

Longboat Key

 

Vern Buchanan Rant
To: Editor

In what world is it ok for a public servant to create a chaotic situation in his hometown during a time when the worst possible scenario for this chaotic situation already exists. I am referring to the fact that Vern Buchanan invited our VPOTUS to his home on Longboat Key for a fundraiser with no thought of the serious road conditions that already exist in his supposed home town, created by our government public servants who are as blind to what goes on in the real world, i.e. the streets of their home town, as he is, causing endless road closures so that the motorcade could ferry the public servants to his lavish home on LBK in order to raise money so that they can continue to make and do the stupid things they are known for. This is an outrageous abuse of power that he foisted on his friends, neighbors, visitors and other victims with not one iota of concern about the impact his actions are having on them. How many thousands of people, residents and visitors, were disrupted by this decision? And how can another public servant, the VPOTUS, think it is ok to fly to Sarasota for a fundraiser when he should be dealing with the next crisis, Coronavirus? The sad part of this scenario is that we elected these people, so we can only blame ourselves.

Arden Allen

Longboat Key

 

Two Thank You’s

To: Editor

I wish to thank Vice President Pence for his gracious visit to Longboat Key. Instead of tending to the people’s business, and to be hard at work overseeing the efforts to contain the risk posed by the coronavirus’ potential pandemic (a responsibility he held but for one day), he chose instead to attend a fundraiser here on Longboat Key. Truly someone who recognizes how important appearances are to a population that is looking for leadership and reassurance.

I wish to also to thank Representative Buchanan for selflessly hosting a fundraiser thus causing significant disruption to the lives of his fellow Longboat Key-ers and the business interests on our Key. It is they who faced the fallout from the closing down Gulf of Mexico Drive only so that Buchanan could indulge the interests of his fellow oligarchs and sense of self-importance. Such is the arrogance of power and indifference to the welfare of those whom they represent.

Longboat Key

 

Sarasota voices needed

To: Editor

Seems your Sarasota City News is little more than or the same as the Longboat Key News. The Longboat Key News is composed of “Letters to the Editor” mostly with complaints about Sarasota traffic and the difficulties getting off the island. Where are the Sarasota voices and perspectives in your Sarasota City News?

As a resident of Longboat Key for 10 years nothing really new here. Longboat Key could solve the traffic problem by having the police and secret service clear traffic from the Ringling Bridge so that the folks north of the City would have exclusive access for a few hours each day. Also LBK could build some workforce housing on the Key to accommodate its workforce. If you want further constraints on development talk to your Republican State Representatives and Republican Governor who use pre-emption and the Bert Harris Act to throttle any attempt to manage development.

Larry Grossman

Sarasota

 

Please visit over traffic…

To: Longboat Key Commissioner Kenneth Schneier, FDOT Secretary L.K. Nandam

To update you, today was the final day of any lane closures related to the earth work underway, to replace a 70-year-old water main, on the north side of the John Ringling Causeway approaching St. Armands. The remaining work that will be completed tomorrow will be able to be able to be completed while leaving both westbound lanes open. The remaining work installing the new water main and replacing the former sidewalk with a bigger sidewalk/multi-use trail, will be completed after the peak travel season.

Over the next few days, before any possible joint meeting regarding the staging of future construction projects, FDOT and city engineers as well as SPD, will be working to calibrate as best they can, the flow of traffic through the City of Sarasota, to the barrier islands. I also just came from Sarasota Memorial Hospital as well, and NB 41 was jammed packed heading back to town, which had absolutely nothing to do with any traffic detours related to Fruitville or the causeway. We are clearly at the peak of what is likely to prove a peak year of visitations to our region. Even local airport traffic to and from SRQ has doubled in the past year as evidence of our increasing visitation loads.   This is likely due to a very good national economy, bad weather up north, a highly desirable area, and demographics.

I would suggest that between now and a joint meeting all elected officials who have not visited or have not become familiar with the FDOT traffic control center, seriously consider visiting. As I understand it, there are challenges getting off of LBK in both directions and knowing the capacity of the system, how it works, and how we all can best coordinate with it will prove helpful to a construction a meaningful meeting as FDOT looks at future projects and long term options. We have pleaded with LBK to participate in our water taxi study and brainstorm other new concepts, with virtually no response.    Improving movement of people, excuse the pun, must be a two-way street.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Discussions should take place

To: FDOT Secretary L.K. Nandam and Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

As a Longboat Key Commissioner who has actively experienced and vocally opposed the traffic nightmare caused by construction projects this season, I was gratified to see that this issue would be included on the City of Sarasota’s March 16 agenda. I was then equally disappointed to see your request that this agenda item be removed.  Let’s hope your request is denied.

We have a major traffic problem this year which has been well documented and whose causes are well known.  We hoped Phase II of the Fruitville roundabout project would bring some relief, but this morning it took 1 1/2 hours to drive from Sarasota Memorial Hospital to Longboat Key for two reasons:  The shutdown of Fruitville Rd. westbound shunted masses of traffic through downtown and onto 41 northbound from all available approaches; and the simultaneous closure of Coon Key bridge for sidewalk repairs backed up Gulfstream from St. Armands all the way to the 41 intersection.  For the first time, we had gridlock in every direction.

Each member of the public, business owner, venue operator and visitor who has addressed this year’s traffic problem has asked that the G41 roundabout project be delayed or aborted.  The City and FDOT have so far agreed to postpone construction until 2021 but have argued that contracts for the work must be executed by June.  Why?  Why should the clock be allowed to run out for the public on both sides of the Bay to weigh in on the validity of that project and the incredible disruption it will cost all of us for more than two years?  Discussions should certainly take place on “alternative maintenance” procedures for all road construction, present and future–one might argue they are overdue– but these talks should not come at the expense of the rights of the supposed beneficiaries of these plans to air their grievances and express their opinions directly to government–face to face.  If not now, when?

Almost two years ago, the City of Sarasota was about to implement the “Fruitville Road Diet” program that would have permanently reduced the roadway on Fruitville’s westernmost blocks from four lanes to two. The plan would have enhanced walkability but at the expense of drivers and the primary evacuation route for island residents and others.  Only when the citizens were given the opportunity to question the wisdom of the “Diet” at a public meeting did the Commission abandon it, by a 4-1 vote. Let the people be heard on the G41 roundabout question before it’s too late.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

We are working on traffic alternatives

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

As discussed with both you and Longboat Key, we are developing alternate maintenance of traffic plans during construction of the Gulf Stream roundabout. I suggest we continue with our plan for a meeting between the city, Longboat and us to discuss these options which should be ready in three weeks. The city and the town can discuss these projects after our meeting.  I recommend waiting on placing these items on your agenda till April or May.

  1. K. Nandam

District Secretary

Florida Department of Transportation District 1

 

I hope for improvement…

To: BJ Bishop

We have received your note from yesterday’s public updates and we thank you for taking the time to write. FYI, by tomorrow afternoon all of the earth work that has to be completed to prepare to replace a 70-year-old watermain serving Lido Key, will be completed. The remaining additional work will completed after peak season and we will hope the water main remains stable as we attempt to direct pedestrians and bicyclists to safely migrate to the south side MURT.

I do hope with the dramatic improvements coming off the island implemented this week, you consider being equally vociferous about the improved conditions. As public officials sometimes well intended comments borne of frustration, can have the unintended consequence of making a difficult situation more difficult. I suspect some have stopped visiting LBK and/or Lido, due to traffic issues, but all the publicity about the traffic issues related to these very large and complex projects which have included many variables beyond our control has added to the business challenge. In fairness to merchants, restaurants and realtors they might appreciate some support by letting the public know the situation has now improved dramatically. Of course positive comments and pro-active marketing will increase traffic again, so I can understand if you might be reluctant to comment favorably about the reopening of the third exit off the islands and the free flow of NB traffic through Fruitville. Best wishes for a wonderful day.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Condescension not appreciated

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

I sent notes on my Twitter and Facebook page as well as my email list about the third left turn lane on Tuesday. Do not appreciate the tone of your note. Condescending notes are never productive to improved communication.

BJ Bishop

Longboat Key

 

Your tone has been quite something as well

To: BJ Bishop

Thank you. The tone of your emails have been quite something as well. Moving forward I will refrain from any further digital communications with you, and will continue to work with your town manager, Tom Harmer. If Mr. Harmer is not available, and you do have a need to speak with the City of Sarasota administration, outside of normal and established protocols, our direct number is 941.263.6402. I do want to wish you the best of luck in your new role and we do sincerely wish to collaborate with LBK on this and hopefully many other matters in the future.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Your Mayor clearly understands

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Our highest responsibility is to the health, welfare and safety of our citizens. You may not wish to hear how decisions in the City have impacted the region, but we are committed to improving the plight we have been dealt since November. Your Mayor clearly understands that and I am so grateful for her diligent work.
BJ Bishop

Longboat Key

 

Five lanes into one!

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch
I am sitting in a backlog because the City has made southbound US 41 one-lane. A five-lane road and one-lane? The Van Wezel has performances nightly and this is how the City deals with its patrons? Very frustrating.

BJ Bishop

Longboat Key

 

Van Wezel tonight

To: BJ Bishop, Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Sorry for the late response. Had a Commission meeting today and tonight and follow up work. I will look into this tomorrow (today) and get back to you. I have copied the City Manager and staff as well.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Van Wezel shift completed

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

All four lanes are open on the bypass and the shift has been completed.  The second day of the shift occurred last night so there was time during the shift when the lanes were impacted.  The sidewalk/MURT is also open.

Alexandrea Davis Shaw

City Engineer

City of Sarasota

 

Great news Alex!

To: Sarasota City Engineer Alexandrea Davis Shaw

I am hopeful there will finally be some relief. Thank you all for your patience.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

Submission of Plans for Proposed Buccaneer Restaurant

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

The staff received an application today for the new Buccaneer Restaurant.  The proposed Site Development Plan and Special Exception Application will require a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Board.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Submission of Plans for Proposed Buccaneer Restaurant

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

This afternoon we received Site Development Plan & Special Exception applications for a proposed new Buccaneer Restaurant at the site of the former PattiGeorge’s Restaurant (4120 GMD).

The applications propose a 30’ ft. high, single-story (above a parking-level) restaurant. The restaurant proposes outdoor dining areas along its Bay fronting-side at the main restaurant level and on the roof-level (western elevation image below).

Site Development Plan documents indicate that the proposed restaurant would be 8,755 sq. ft. and would contain 196 seats (144 indoor seats and 52 outdoor seats). The proposed parking, comprised of 49-spaces, would seek to make use of the existing restaurant parking standards which is based on 1 parking space for each 4 seats. The applicant was made aware of the pending code changes to the restaurant parking ratios prior to their submittal.

FYI too-The proposed Site Development Plan & Special Exception applications will not be heard by the Town Commission, as the P&Z Board has approval/denial authority of these types of applications.

Allen Parsons

Director Planning, Zoning & Building Department

Town of Longboat Key

 

Submission of Plans for Proposed Buccaneer Restaurant

To: Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer

If I am correct, the new rule would require 58 spaces (8,755 divided by 150).  I think we should see if compliance with the new rule is practicable.

Ken Schneier

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

A disproven seating ratio

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Looking at the section of the proposed ordinance 2020-03 pertaining to theaters, I have a question. The ordinance singles out theaters for seats per parking space rather than using floor area per parking place, as is being proposed for most other commercial properties.

The ordinance states that a theater can have four seats for every parking place. May I remind you that the same apportionment ratio was used for the restaurants in the village, and we now have one of the worst parking and traffic situations I’ve ever seen in my life.

People on Longboat do not go to restaurants or theaters, or anywhere else, with four people in the car. And they most likely do not have children in tow. Even if we had some sort of carpooling system on the island, I doubt many residents would use it.

I am wondering if the commission’s desire to have a theater behind Publix has anything to do with using a disproven seating ratio for the only possible theater on Longboat Key.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Industry standard for parking

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

“The area of square footage allotted for each patron depends on what type of dining establishment you intend to have, depending on whether or not you have a fine dining establishment, full service restaurant, counter service, fast food restaurant, a hotel/club or a banquet hall.

The general seating guidelines that should be observed are:

Fine Dining: 18–20 Square Feet

Full Service  Restaurant Dining: 12–15 Square Feet

Counter Service: 18–20 Square Feet

Fast Food Minimum: 11–14 Square Feet

Table Service, Hotel/Club:  15–18 Square Feet

Banquet, Minimum: 10–11 Square Feet”

Based on this industry standard chart, using one parking space to each 150 sq/ft, a “full service restaurant” would be allowed two and a half 4-top tables per car. Is this what the commission wants? Higher commercial density; more traffic congestion?

What is being included in floor area? Should seating area be the basis for determining footage? The Shore has a high ratio of customer area to kitchen area. Small restaurants, needing the same basic kitchen equipment as large restaurants, could be disadvantaged.

Would the parking area under the Shore be counted as floor area or parking area, as they are using that space for supplies storage?

What about the Mar Vista outdoor area with no tables, but many seats where patrons are served appetizers and drinks? I think the wording is vague and open to legal manipulation by lawyers. We do not need more loosely worded ordinances that are wide open to abuse.

Will the Shore and Mar Vista be able to demand additional seating, more cars and tourist congestion?

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Any help appreciated…

To: Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody

Thank you so much for including Tom Harmer, our Town Manager in the traffic conversation this morning at Sarasota Town Hall. Ironic, as I called him after he left the meeting and both of us were trapped in traffic at Gulfstream and US 41 onto the Ringling Bridge due to the City’s decision to make a stretch of road on Coon Key one lane during the height of season.

I was returning to a meeting taking place at a restaurant on St. Armand’s Key.  I was 20 minutes late for the meeting, having left another event on Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota at 11 a.m. As I was walking into the restaurant I encountered 6 tourists who asked if I lived here. When I told them I did they said, “We have come for years, but we will never come back. The traffic in Sarasota and trying to get out here to shop and eat is impossible.”

Conversations like the one noted above are happening all over the area. Patrons leaving the Van Wezel Monday night faced the elimination of all but one lane on southbound 41.  I would hope the City would coordinate the road closures with your performing arts venue to insure patrons are not trapped in the parking lot. Just a 30-minute delay in the elimination of lanes would have solved that problem.

I have served in public office in the fastest growing County in the nation  (Loudoun County VA) and will take office in Longboat Key as a Commissioner on March 23rd after a long stint as chair of Planning and Zoning on the island.  One important lesson I learned in VA is to never impede traffic on major traffic routes.  The City has done that routinely.  Doing multiple projects at one time without lane preservation and no consideration to the inability of St. Armand’s and Longboat Key residents to get to and from their homes and businesses has been highly frustrating.

One of our frustrations is the continuing discussion of population increases causing the problem for us getting off the Key.  Our population has not increased and will not increase because of language in the LBK charter that requires a Referendum for any increase in density.  No referendum has passed in 25 years.

Any further consideration and help you can provide is greatly appreciated.  Your prior help on the Fruitville project was a tremendous benefit to all of us out here, as was your meeting today. I know you have a busy business schedule as well as your time serving Sarasota, but if you have time for coffee would love to sit down with you.

BJ Bishop

Longboat Key

 

Traffic issues meeting

To: Sarasota City Commission

An analysis of the projected roundabout for this intersection on the FDOT website shows an unrealistic and complicated maze, which will lead to many different traffic problems. Only regular daily users will find their way. Any tourist or elderly person will be at a loss. Pedestrian crossings are ill-conceived and in the wrong spots (immediately after a turn!?).

What is the problem? One Axis Tamiami Trail (US 41), another Axis Gulfstream Ave/Fruitville Rd.

Only a vertical separation of these two axes will provide a visionary and longer-term solution!

How: The most elegant solution (i.e. US 41 underground) is technically too complicated and costly, especially because of the challenges presented by the high rises built up to the lot lines on both sides.

Realistically, the second best solution is a US 41 overpass. The southern ramp shall start after crossing Main St and the northern ramp shall be between 6th St/Blvd of the Arts and 10th St roundabout.

Smaller and simpler roundabouts, traffic lights or other options can be conceived at street level under the US 41 overpass.

Where required, pedestrian crossings can easily be accommodated between Gulfstream and 10th allowing for safe access to the bayfront.

Take a step back and try to visualize the problem and imagine the most creative long-term solution. We need a long-term strategic vision, not an intermediate tactical improvisation!

Twenty-five years ago US 41 could have been put underground between Selby Gardens and 10th St.; not anymore. There is still time to come up with a better solution than the current plan. I humbly submit this idea for your consideration.

Karel van Hinloopen Labberton

Sarasota
Public safety concerns regarding Village parking

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Commissioners,  FYI. At the last meeting I was asked to check with our public safety departments to see if there have been any concerns or incidents related to access of vehicles in the Village due to the recent parking concerns. I checked with both the Police and Fire Chief’s and have been advised that they are not aware of any specific instances or concerns with access or ingress/egress. Both Departments continue to monitor the conditions in the Village.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Public safety response times

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

We have received a number of questions or comments concerned about the impact of traffic congestion on our ambulance response times. The Chief has pulled together some statistics showing response times over the four months and comparing that to our annual average. The most significant impact appears to be related to non-emergency transports as they are transported without lights and sirens and can be more caught up in the normal traffic flow. The Chief continues to monitor the conditions and response times.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Village Parking Problem

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Ed, at the last workshop you pointed out that so long as there is street parking in the village, people will always choose closer street parking over parking in a lot 1,800 feet distant. Now I read in the town email that you think it is “unreasonable ” to expect the commission to consider permit parking before the parking lot has been completed and in use for some unspecified length of time.

Ed, I do not believe that logically it can be both ways.

1) What is the legal justification for continuing to promote unconscionable levels of commercial tourism in a residential neighborhood?

Ed, at the last workshop I believe you stated that you believed the traffic/parking problems were unsupportable. What has changed?

By law, the restaurants do not need street parking. Nor are they legally entitled to street parking. Why then is there so much resistance on the part of the town to remedy unsupportable tourism congestion in the village, year after year?

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

 

Village Parking Problem

To: Gene Jaleski

Gene, Can you never temper your negativity?  Nothing has changed. You know full well that staff has been tasked with researching certain novel legal and practical issues.  I hope they will be able to report back at our next workshop. If the results permit, I then expect to seek a consensus for preparation of a draft ordinance. If that procedure is approved we will need to go through our first and second reading processes of a fairly complex ordinance. Even if successful, at best this will all take a few months. By then the busy season will be over and the new parking area will hopefully be available for use about that time.  In the meantime, staff is awaiting village preferences regarding safety options. I expect they will all meet very shortly and that appropriate action can be taken quickly.  Cool down and cease your unfounded personal attacks.

Ed Zunz

Vice Mayor

Longobat Key

 

Village Parking Problem

To: Longboat Key Vice Mayor Ed Zunz

Ed, please try to understand my frustration. I have been fighting the commission for over two decades as they allowed the restaurants to expand and expand, until things have become intolerable for many village residents. It’s not as though things happened in a vacuum. Several village residents repeatedly warned the town that they were not acting in the best interests of the community.

Gene Jaleski

Longboat Key

The Four Questions for city officials

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

  1. How many cars traverse the intersection of US 41 and Gulfstream daily in high season?
  2. What studies demonstrate that roundabouts in other cities with as much traffic as we have, effectively manage traffic?
  3. How about allowing one year of a three lane left turn onto 41 and see how that works, saving money and misery?
  4. How about a referendum to see how much support for, or opposition to, that roundabout?

Carol Newman

Longboat Key

 

The Four Questions for city officials
To: Carol Newman

Carol, I agree with you. Especially number four. We have our St. Armands Association dinner Tuesday night at the Yacht Club and the city commissioner is going to be in attendance. I plan to have a conversation with him regarding the traffic nightmares we are experiencing.  Hopefully it will be a productive conversation.

Jill Booth

Sarasota

 

Where do traffic statistics come from?

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Thank you for your presentation on behalf of your constituents. It was concise. One presumes, necessarily.

I have a question for Mr. Barwin: Where does he get his statistics?

As you have repeatedly noted, Mayor, those heralded, bottom-line statistics had been, until recently, promising a traffic congestion reduction between 80 and 100 percent over 50 years at Gulfstream and US 41. (In far less than 50 years, I might add, there will be only automated vehicles on the road and all current traffic congestion devices will have been obsolete for decades.) Then, suddenly, those sales-projection figures rematerialized into an insignificant projected average of 11-35 percent traffic congestion relief lasting for only four years (In some circles, that tactical adjustment might be designated as bait and switch.).

Where is the peer-reviewed, published, scientific data that accounts for this catastrophic decline in anticipated efficiency over a blink-of-an-eye time-span versus what was represented initially as benefits that would last two-thirds to one-half of one’s anticipated lifetime? How did the data get so drastically reduced?

The logical next question is, if we can’t trust our Commission on this foundational aspect of its promotional program, why should we trust it on anything regarding roundabouts?

My position is: Show me. I want to see these stats in traffic engineering journals and I want Sarasotans to be satisfied that an 11 percent traffic reduction at peak hours (which remain incalculable over 4 years due to the generous and unrestrained local approval of development) will be acceptable for a $25 million ($6.25 million per year) roundabout at Gulfstream Ave.

From what source did Mr. Baldwin, et al., acquire these stats? How arbitrary and unreliable are the Commissioners if they were promoting far more attractive statistics merely a year or two ago? What is the real truth for why we must endure any more of this Roundabout Fever at enormous public cost? Show me!

Sandra R. Tessler

Sarasota

 

Traffic information from City of Sarasota and FDOT meeting

To: City officials, Longboat Key officials, residents

I hope you are all well. My apologies for not responding earlier, I wanted to make sure all the elements of this email were as accurate as possible. Sorry for this group email again, and please share with anyone I may have inadvertently left off this communication.

I wanted to send an updated email addressing the current traffic congestion at Gulfstream and US 41, as well as address the meeting and discussion with Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and others re the future planned Roundabout at Gulfstream.

I want to make it clear that this email is from myself (Jen Ahearn-Koch). This is not an email from the City Commission of Sarasota.

The City Manager and I met with Mr. L.K. Nandam (and others, including a representative of the Quay development, staff of FDOT and the City of Sarasota) on Monday, February, 24, 2020 in the afternoon at 3:45 p.m. The meetings resulted in the statement issued by FDOT on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 (pasted in under my additional statement).

Below are other items discussed at the meeting on Monday, February 24, 2020.

The re-opening of the third “express lane” is currently on schedule to open as soon as possible, and it is anticipated to be – at the earliest – Tuesday, March 3, 2020, but unforeseen happenings could cause a delay. Once open, this should be a tremendous relief to the current traffic back up.

While the Gulfstream Roundabout will be constructed, it will not start until after the completion of Fruitville, 10th, and 14th street.

The construction of the non-roadway (non-traffic disruption) portions of Gulfstream Roundabout will begin roughly January 2021. This will not impact traffic flow.

The construction of the roadway portion (potential traffic disruption) will begin out of “Sarasota’s season.”

FDOT and City are working to identify means and methods to insure traffic conditions are not impacted with the construction, and we will share more once it has been examined. This is still being researched and evaluated.

FDOT has live monitoring of the intersection at Gulfstream and 41 and is able to adjust the traffic lights to help alleviate actual traffic congestion pattern and will continue to monitor and adjust

FDOT will look into adjusting the HAWK pedestrian crossing light to increase the time gap between pedestrian requests, this should help with traffic flow

FDOT, the City of Sarasota (including myself), the Town of Longboat Key (Commissioner Daly), and neighborhood representative are meeting weekly throughout the project to continue to monitor the roundabout projects (Fruitville and Gulfstream) as well as help inform the community of updates and progress

All the coordinating organizations have established clear lines of communication

The current construction of Fruitville Roundabout means that there will be no light at that intersection, so the traffic will flow more freely at that area, north and south, but also the East bound express lane onto Fruitville Rd

FDOT is looking into an incentive program for the construction of the roundabout to potentially finish the project early. A meeting is scheduled between myself, Commissioner Daly, Tom Harmer, Thomas Barwin, and Mr. Nandam.

Thank you all for contacting me with your concerns, input, ideas, solutions, and frustrations. I do appreciate you all reaching out to me and I am optimistic this is a positive step. I have been keeping a list (this list) of interested parties to email as we progress through the projects so I can update you all. If you do not want to receive the emails, please let me know and I will take you off the list.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Traffic statement from FDOT

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain some of the Department’s efforts to streamline and minimize the impacts of current and future roundabout construction within the City. This is certainly important not only to the residents of Sarasota but also the island communities, including Longboat Key.

First, per conversations with your staff I understand that the third left turn lane from Gulfstream onto US 41 will be open sometime next week. Previously the lane was to be open by mid-February however, based on the work that needs to be done by both contractors in the area, City of Sarasota and the department agreed to move opening of the lane than risk a serious drainage issue that could lead to a prolonged closure.

FDOT is also aware of the concerns some citizens have expressed regarding construction of the Gulfstream roundabout during or immediately after the completion of the Fruitville and 10th and 14th Street roundabouts. The Department greatly appreciates the patience that drivers, residents and business owners have shown while we have worked on the 10th and 14th Street roundabouts. After discussing these concerns with you and the Town of Longboat Key, FDOT can commit that we will not begin construction of the Gulfstream roundabout project until after the completion of the roundabouts at Fruitville Road, 10th and 14th Street. Furthermore, once construction of the Gulfstream project begins in early 2021, we will ensure construction activities will be limited to avoid lane closures during the 2021 peak season.

Secretary Nandam has also instructed FDOT staff to continue to work with the cities of Sarasota and Longboat Key to develop further strategies to minimize impacts to residents and visitors traveling through the heart of the city. We will update you with more specific details on these strategies once the coordination meetings between FDOT, the City of Sarasota and the Town of Longboat Key have taken place.

One aspect of this coordination will be the development of an FDOT engagement plan for the Gulfstream roundabout and a City of Sarasota engagement plan for the Fruitville Roundabout, which will include coordination between the state and city to ensure that the public, elected officials and our partners are informed of construction activities and are able to plan accordingly.

Thank you again for your interest in these projects as well as your willingness to work with the Department to ensure that all three projects are successful and beneficial for the people of Sarasota and the island communities. As public servants we all share a desire to provide the best possible infrastructure that our residents, businesses and visitors have come to expect.

Zachary Burch

Government Affairs & Communications Manager

Florida Department of Transportation

 

Tags: , , , ,

Longboat Key News

Leave a Reply