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Longboat Key Monday, Apr. 15, 2019 7 months ago

Longboat mayor's letter urges against road plan in Sarasota

City Commission expected to discuss Fruitville Road rework at meeting today.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Mayor George Spoll wrote a letter to Sarasota Mayor Liz Alpert and the rest of the City Commission, advocating against a city proposal to reconfigure a segment of Fruitville Road from a four-lane thoroughfare to one with two lanes and three traffic circles.

George Spoll

The Sarasota City Commission is scheduled to consider this proposal during its meeting today. Longboat Key leaders said this morning that they expect the issue to come before the Commission after the meeting resumes at 6 p.m. following its late-afternoon break in the Commission Chambers of City Hall, 1565 First Street.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney is expected to speak at the meeting, relaying Longboat's "grave concerns'' regarding the so-called road-diet plan, designed to enhance the street's pedestrian access and experience.

Town leaders have expressed concern a narrowing of the road would create a dire situation in the event of a suddenly called emergency evacuation. Fruitville Road is a prime evacuation route to the east for residents of not only Longboat Key but also the barrier islands to the south -- some of which fall inside the city limits of Sarasota. 

Sarasota leaders have said such an evacuation could be handled via a reversal of westbound traffic on that route, but the unavoidable choke point rests at the intersection of U.S. 301, another major arterial. Several Sarasota business and residents groups have expressed support for the two-lane proposal.

The text of Spoll's letter is as follows:

April 10, 2019

Liz Alpert, Mayor and 
City of Sarasota Commission 
1565 1st Street, Room 101 
Sarasota, FL 34236

 Dear Mayor Alpert, and Commissioners,

On behalf of the Longboat Key Town Commission, I am writing to express the Town's position regarding the City of Sarasota's Fruitville Road Streetscape Enhancement Project. Fruitville Road is a vital part of a regional traffic network between the Interstate, downtown Sarasota, and the barrier islands including Bird Key, Lido Key, St. Armand's, City Island, and Longboat Key.

This east/west road handles a significant amount of traffic on a year-round basis. Fruitville Road is the primary means of ingress and egress to and from the Town of Longboat Key. For this reason the Town has a high level of concern in all plans, present and future, to improve, alter or modify the design and capacity of Fruitville Road.

As stated in our previous letters and prior public appearances before the City Commission, the Town is aware of the City's desire to make streets friendlier to all modes of traffic; including being walkable and bike friendly. The Town is also aware that the City is making a decision to proceed with one of two options for implementing such elements on Fruitville Road between Routes 41 and 301. 

Option 1: Maintain a total of four (4) vehicular travel lanes while expanding the width of the sidewalk and relocating the bicycle lanes to 2nd St. and/or 4th St.

Option 2: Reduce the total number of vehicular travel lanes from four (4) to two (2) between Coconut Ave. and N. Lemon Ave. and creating an 8-ft. emergency pullover lane and converting the related intersections to roundabouts. 

The Town of Longboat Key can only support Option 1, which maintains the existing critical vehicular lane capacity. It is the Town's position that Option 1 is the only option before the City Commission that will not adversely impact Longboaters' ability to travel to and from the island, as we have done from inception.

Accordingly, the Town is strongly opposed to Option 2 as it relates to lane capacity reduction, the installation of an additional three (3) roundabouts, and the overall effects on traffic flow and congestion these modifications will create. 

The Town is extremely concerned about the impacts any road capacity reduction would have on hurricane-driven barrier island evacuations and do not believe that this consideration has been adequately observed. The Town strongly requests that the City consider balancing mobility objectives with traffic flow concerns for the City and for Longboat Key and our neighboring barrier islands.

It would be unconscionable to create a choke point in an evacuation route that could result in tragic events such as have recently occurred in the Western US. Such might occur in a sudden shift of a hurricane's path onto our area ... recall the recent late shift away to the East which saved us from mass destruction! Such a last minute shift, and the rush to leave, might be disastrous! For the above reasons, the Town is concerned with many of the findings and conclusions of the Final Traffic Memorandum by Sam Schwartz Engineering D.P.C dated January 6, 2017.

Further, from the Town's perspective, there are many questions raised by the commissioned study, and there is too great a risk of negative impacts to the regional system without exploring these issues and other roadway capacity and evacuation route considerations. The unintended consequences of proceeding forward with Option 2 may endanger residents of the entire region including the City of Sarasota, Bird Key, Lido Key, St. Armand's, and Longboat Key. The Town is requesting that the City Commission consider regional impacts as a result of your decision, and approve Option 1 as the more conservative approach.

We appreciate the City Commission's consideration and attention to this request. 


George Spoll, 

Mayor of Longboat Key


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