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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 1, 2010 5 years ago

Bayfront roundabouts to number 17 in total

by: Robin Roy City Editor

APRIL FOOLS — Download the roundabout map here.

As the city moves closer to implementing the bayfront-connectivity plan, it has dramatically altered the project.

The original plans called for six roundabouts on U.S. 41 from 14th Street to Orange Avenue.

But because numerous studies have shown that roundabouts work best when they are in a series, the city has decided to build even more roundabouts along that route — 17 in all.

Roundabouts will be built at: 14th Street, 12th Street, 11th Street, 10th Street, Ninth Street, Boulevard of the Arts, Fifth Street, Fruitville Road, First Street, North Palm Avenue, Main Street, Ringling Boulevard, South Palm Avenue, Orange Avenue, Osprey Avenue and two at Gulfstream Avenue.

“With all the cars coming from and going to the keys, we felt two roundabouts for the bridge traffic at Gulfstream was the best way to go,” said the city’s connectivity project manager. “The 17-roundabout plan will keep traffic flowing much smoother than only six roundabouts would have.”

The city is planning an extensive education campaign to ensure drivers know how to navigate the figure-eight roundabout.

For drivers coming off the bridge into downtown, it will be important for them to stay in the right lane for as long as possible until within 50 feet of the south roundabout. At the 50-foot mark, drivers need to get into the far left lane, because they first need to drive around the north roundabout.

Once in the north roundabout, cars should navigate the first three-quarters in the left lane. At the point where Gulfstream Avenue traffic joins the north roundabout, drivers already in the north roundabout will merge into the right lane for the approach into the south roundabout.

Halfway through the south roundabout, northbound U.S. 41 traffic will be joining the rest of the cars. Where that happens, each driver already in the south roundabout will carefully take turns moving forward with the merging cars from U.S. 41.

It will be critical for all cars to keep traveling at least at 20 mph, because the figure-eight roundabout will not function properly if even one car dips below that speed. For that reason, pedestrians will need to high-tail it across the lanes of traffic. The city is considering placing high-speed conveyor belts at the figure-eight to help seniors cross the roadway as quickly as possible.

The rules are simple for drivers heading over the bridge to the keys — do the exact opposite of the drivers heading to the mainland.

The surprise announcement this week that a Wal-Mart will be built on the site of the former Sarasota Quay could mean an 18th roundabout for the bayfront.

Sarasota developers Bob Morris and Mark Famiglio have signed a contract to develop the first upscale Wal-Mart on the former Quay property.

In addition to the first upscale Wal-Mart, the entire plaza is expected to have such other nationally known retailers such as Jo-Ann Fabrics, Lane Bryant, Discount Auto Parts and a locally owned Bealls Outlet super center. Some of the restaurants that already have committed include Bob Evans, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Bojangles Chicken ’N’ Biscuits and Mr. Hero.

Famiglio said he and Morris plan to open the 400,000-square-foot project in the first year with mostly value stores and then gradually introduce more upscale retailers.

For more on this story, click here.

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