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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 5 years ago

Change the lights to red

Classic: Longboat residents are worried someone will be killed at the new crosswalks. But rather than change yellow lights to red, the state wants to conduct forums.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

Ever since the now-infamous crosswalks have been installed on Gulf of Mexico Drive, one of the conversations you hear from just about every Longboat Key resident is how the yellow flashing lights at the crosswalks need to be converted to red.

Every driver understands red. It means stop. Yellow lights, we are all taught, mean caution, slow down. They don’t mean stop.

Simple thing to fix, right?

But the Florida Department of Transportation’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Specialist David Jones told the Longboat Key Town Commission the all-knowing, all-governing state requires certain criteria must be met before the state will replace the yellow lights with red lights.

One of those criteria is whether there are enough pedestrians to warrant the change.

This is idiotic.

When our own Commissioner Lynn Larson tested one of the crosswalks recently, she said about 10 cars from either direction drove through the yellow flashing lights before motorists finally figured out they were to stop for pedestrians.

So how does FDOT propose to fix this problem? With “WalkWise” educational forums.

That is a joke. It’s one thing to try to educate all of Longboat Key’s residents how the new crosswalks work. But it is completely unrealistic to think the FDOT’s WalkWise forums are going to attract hordes of motorists who use Gulf of Mexico Drive as a pass-through to and from Sarasota and Bradenton to sit through a crosswalk safety forum. Not to mention the thousands of tourists who come from around the world.

Save the time and money producing the forums. 

Just change the color of the plastic shielding the lights from orange to red. Or better yet: Install a traditional red flashing light and a sign that says stop for pedestrians. Problem solved.

It's a taking

“… Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” — Fifth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

After three of the five Sarasota County commissioners voted Jan. 27  to ban retail puppy and kitten sales in Sarasota County, had we been the owner of the Petland Sarasota store, we would have handed the three commissioners the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and said: 

“And I assume you will be providing me and my business just compensation for confiscating my property.”

Some lawyers probably would argue otherwise, but commissioners committed a taking.

It was an egregious example of legislative overreach. Don’t be surprised if Petland Sarasota owner Brad Parker will soon be standing before commissioners seeking his just compensation.  


Traffic jams

On Monday, a caller around noon to the Longboat Observer commented on his cellphone that he was creeping ever so slowly toward the Cortez Bridge, coming from Bradenton to Longboat Key. Traffic, as usual at this time of year, was backed up at the Gulf Drive-Cortez Bridge stoplight in Bradenton Beach.

This past Saturday and Sunday, traffic lines stretched from the Gulfstream Avenue-John Ringling Causeway intersection all the way into St. Armands Circle at mid-morning and vice versa at late afternoon, thanks to an art festival on St. Armands. Traffic also backed up at Fruitville and Tamiami Trail.

Drives that typically take five minutes took 30 minutes or more.

Inexplicable is why none of the municipalities, the Florida Highway Patrol or Department of Transportation ever assigns officers to improve the flow of traffic.

It’s like the change of seasons. We all know at this time of year traffic is going to back up on the bridges leading to and from the barrier islands. You would think, then, government officials might — just might — be able to think like private-sector business operators and plan for such events.

At Christmastime, retailers and package shippers — to keep their customers happy and coming back — increase their employee counts to handle the increase in volumes of sales and shipping. Why can’t government do the same?

It would be unreasonable, of course, to expect traffic cops to eliminate backups. There clearly are more cars than street capacity at those times. But surely traffic officers could improve the flow.


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