In six years, Sarasota could certainly earn a new nickname: Roundabout City.
A project to install roundabouts on the bayfront is growing in size and cost. City commissioners in April added two additional roundabouts — at the intersections of U.S. 41 and University Parkway, and U.S. 41 and 47th Street — to the scope of the project.
Now, a total of 10 of the multi-lane roundabouts are proposed for U.S. 41 along the bayfront.
On June 24, the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will vote on the addition of the two new roundabouts.
A yes vote would dedicate federal and state funding for the two new roundabouts, said Rod Warner, a roundabout proponent and member of MPO’s citizens advisory committee.
“That’s a big meeting,” Warner said.
The first two of 10 multi-lane roundabouts along the bayfront got the go-ahead from the Federal Highway Administration earlier this month, and crews could begin construction in 2016-2017.
The $7.9 million cost for the first two roundabouts will be funded, in part, with $2.5 million in state funding and $1.5 million in federal funding, said Robin Stublen, public information officer for the Florida Department of Transportation.
Warner said a series of nine roundabouts constructed in 2009, on State Route 179 in Sedona, Ariz., shows how the roundabouts can work in a series.
“The roundabouts made the tourists and the locals happy,” Warner said.
In addition, a pair of smaller single-lane roundabouts is in the works downtown.
One of the circles, at Ringling and Orange avenues, would become the third roundabout on Ringling Boulevard.
Commissioners approved that roundabout in September. And city engineers have determined a roundabout can fit at that intersection, DavisShaw said.
Two similar roundabouts were completed last year, also on Ringling Boulevard, at the intersections of Palm and Pineapple avenues.
Another roundabout slated for Main Street and Orange Avenue could be completed by next spring, Warner said. (See sidebar.)
Warner said the roundabouts on the bayfront are designed to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to get across the bayfront thoroughfare.
“This is a multi-modal corridor with roundabouts,” Warner said.
A permanent honor
One of Sarasota’s newest roundabouts could be named after downtown advocate Paul Thorpe.
The Downtown Improvement District (DID) voted unanimously April 30, to send a letter to the City Commission requesting the planned roundabout at Orange Avenue and Main Street be named in honor of Thorpe.
City commissioners would have to vote on the request to name the roundabout and to place a plaque amid landscaping in the circle.
“Paul Thorpe has spent his whole life building up downtown, from when it was all boarded up to what it is now,” said Mark Kauffman, DID board member who suggested the tribute.
On April 25, then-Mayor Suzanne Atwell presented Thorpe with a key to the city.
The potential roundabout honor surprised Thorpe, who attended the April 30 DID meeting.
Ernie Ritz, DID board member and friend of Thorpe, said he thinks the roundabout would be a similar honor to when city officials placed a plaque at the John Ringling Causeway Bridge to honor bridge proponent Gil Waters.
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