Reducing Ringling Boulevard to two lanes will allow for protected bicycle lanes and connect Legacy Trail from Payne Park to the downtown core.
Even as planning is underway for “complete streets” projects for 10th Street and Boulevard of the Arts in downtown Sarasota, work is set to begin to similarly transform a 1-mile stretch of Ringling Boulevard between Lime and Pineapple avenues into a bike-friendly corridor.
Dubbed the Ringling Trail project, Ringling Boulevard will be reduced from two lanes to one in each direction in order to accommodate protected bicycle lanes that will connect Legacy Trail and Payne Park to the downtown core. The city has projected as many as 1,000 bicyclists a day using the bike lanes.
In addition to providing multimodal transportation options, Ringling Boulevard will receive an aesthetic makeover with landscaping providing both form and function, creating a more visitor-friendly experience that translates to economic growth for downtown businesses.
Work on the $2.4 million project was set to begin Monday with project completion scheduled by the end of the year.
“People are going to see some landscaping improvements where we’re creating some curved islands,” said Camden Mills, Sarasota’s capital projects engineer. “When the bicycle lane is approaching an intersection, there will be green striping to provide a a visual change in addition to the landscaping.”
Project renderings show landscaped islands punctuated by large trees on the approach to and leaving intersections along Ringling Boulevard, providing a physical separation between motor vehicles and bikes.
Although one lane in each direction will be eliminated, intersections will have dedicated turn lanes, which do not exist today, to maintain traffic flow.
Because Ringling Boulevard is not a primary east-west thoroughfare, Mills said impact on traffic will be minimal — and it might even improve. The number of cars on the road has declined since 2002, going from as much as 14,000 trips a day to an average of about 7,900 daily trips in 2019.
“We think based on the traffic we have there this won’t add more congestion because the majority of the congestion that we have there today is due to people trying to turn left at these intersections with no dedicated turn lanes,” Mills said. “Even though we're getting rid of two straight lanes, we are providing some dedicated turn lanes to help alleviate the traffic.”
In addition, signal timing will be adjusted to improve traffic management.
When planning began for the project in late 2020, Sarasota Assistant City Engineer Daniel Ohrenstein said the project, a product of the Sarasota In Motion initiative, would bring economic benefits to the area as well. Ringling Boulevard is the closest east-west street to the Legacy Trail route, bringing users of the trail into the downtown area to patronize restaurants and other businesses.
“Looking at case studies from around the country, when you do a bike lane project, it does a number of good things for the economy,” Ohrenstein said at the time.
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