After years of complaining about restrictive street medians, Osprey residents will finally see some relief soon — at least partial relief.
The county is planning to break up the three-block-long median on East Bay Street at U.S. 41 to allow turns onto smaller residential streets.
When the development Bay Street Village was being constructed in 2007 on U.S. 41, just south of Bay Street, the county and Florida Department of Transportation began planning for high-volume traffic.
With 550 condos, 100,000 square feet of commercial spaces, a village green and a new county library, hoards of cars were expected to enter and depart the area.
Residents feared that traffic would swamp their quiet side streets and create noise, pollution and dangerous situations.
Responding to those concerns, the county installed long concrete medians that would make it impossible for cars to avoid a traffic light and turn onto East Bay Street.
FDOT used a traffic-count formula to determine that long medians, with long left-turn lanes, were needed on U.S. 41.
But when the real-estate market turned sour, Bay Street Village never realized its full potential. A few shops are open, but there are no condos, no village green, no library — and no huge influx of traffic.
Dan Knauf has become the most vocal critic of the medians. He lives in the Park Trace development, which is at the easternmost end of East Bay Street.
“They put in this weird thing that you can’t make a left turn at (Washington Avenue) or a U-turn at (Pennsylvania Avenue),” he said.
Cars going east on East Bay Street have to travel three blocks before they can make a U-turn to access businesses, all of which have closed, on the other side.
That was to prevent drivers traveling south on U.S. 41 from avoiding the lengthy left-turn light at East Bay Street by ducking into a side street and taking Washington or Patterson to East Bay Street.
Drivers faced with the prospect of long waits at left-turn lanes on U.S. 41 — and to access East Bay Street — are waiting at the light for more than five minutes (see box), running the red light or making a U-turn at M&D Restaurant and heading back north on U.S. 41.
“We call it the ‘M&D shuffle,’” Knauf laughed.
The county has heard those concerns, and as soon as fall will create openings in the East Bay Street median to allow left turns and U-turns.
However, FDOT, which controls U.S. 41, will not be altering the three-block-long median leading south to East Bay Street.
Some retail business owners on the east side of the street had complained about the median choking off customers.
Of eight businesses on the east side of U.S. 41 from East Bay Street to Ogburn Street that were greeting customers before the median was built, only two remain open.
Gabby’s Patisserie, the gas station, Bay Street Subs and Smoothies and Bay Street Fine Wines are all out of business.
However, only Gabby’s Patisserie directly blamed the medians.
In a 2008 Sarasota Observer interview, owner Michael Byrne said: “If this keeps up, we won’t make it.”
Knauf, though, believes the medians are going to make it difficult to find someone willing to set up shop in those vacant storefronts.
“Who’s going to buy a business when you have got to go on a Humpty-Dumpty carnival ride to get there?” he asked.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time is on my side
Turn lane location Length of red light Length of green light
East Bay Street
to U.S. 41 1:49 0:13
U.S. 41 to
East Bay Street 2:20 to 5:10 0:07