Sarasota County staff has been apologizing for the daily, long lines of motorists on Orange Avenue, waiting their turns to get through the Mound Street light. There’s nothing the county can do in the short term to remedy the problem.
Sarasota County Public Works Project Manager Sandra Boudreau said the intersection is one of 122 the county plans to upgrade through the creation of an Advanced Traffic Management System, which allows for better traffic management and a coordinated regional system. The system also is designed to reduce congestion at busy intersections.
“This intersection is a part of the ATMS Phase 1 project and had its controller cabinet replaced in mid-September,” Boudreau said. “But currently, no signals that are a part of the ATMS project are coordinated due to the fact that the fiber optic cable has not yet been installed.”
Boudreau said the affected intersections, and their lights, function as single traffic points, rather than as synchronized traffic corridors, until the fiber optic cable is installed.
Once that cable work begins this week, the county can test the signals to ensure they will work properly in the new traffic light system.
“It will take the county’s system manager several months to integrate the whole system of 122 intersections,” Boudreau said. “We ask the public to bear with us during this time as the signals are not currently functioning as they have in the past due to the lack of communication connections from intersection to intersection.”
Once the new system is complete, intersections such as the one at Orange Avenue and Mound Street will be more efficient, with a higher volume of vehicles able to get through each green light.
In the meantime, motorists are stuck through the holiday season with longer waits than usual.
Compounding the situation at Orange and Mound, the city has closed part of the Osprey Avenue and Mound Street intersection while it constructs the Luke Wood Park lift station.
Because Osprey traditionally has been a major east-west corridor, more residents have resorted to using Orange instead of Osprey in the past months.
The $15 million ATMS project is being paid for through surtax funds and Transportation Regional Incentive Program dollars.
The first phase of the project, comprising 36 downtown intersections, is expected to be complete in June.
The second phase, consisting of six downtown intersections, is scheduled to be finished in July.
“We are close to creating a completed traffic control system that will create better traffic management and reduce congestion,” said Sarasota County Public Works Executive Director Jim Harriott Jr.
The new system also will allow the county to collect and utilize data to aid in transit improvements. It includes a closed circuit camera system for security purposes.