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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 1 week ago

Longboat residents skeptical about latest traffic study

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The Florida Department of Transportation hosted a showcase Dec. 5 of its latest ideas for solving congested traffic.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Water taxis, roundabouts and even an aerial-gondola system are a few of the more than five dozen Florida Department of Transportation suggestions for alleviating traffic tie-ups on the barrier islands of Sarasota and Manatee counties.

More than 70 people attended the department’s Dec. 5 showcase of its latest round of recommendations for improving safety and combating congestion on state roadways from Anna Maria Island to Lido Key and their mainland connections.

FDOT sought public comment about the short-, medium- and long-term solutions that ranged in cost from a few hundred dollars a month to $30 million.

“The goal is to come up with tangible solutions,” said FDOT spokesman Zac Burch. 

But not everyone at the meeting was convinced. This $675,000 study is at least the fifth of its kind to include Longboat Key since 2005 — none of which have produced solutions that untangled the Key’s often gnarled winter traffic.

“As we get through the study and put meat on the bones of the suggestions, we need to fund solutions,” said Longboat District 4 Commissioner Jack Daly, who sits on the study’s steering committee. 

Ken Newmark, a five-year resident of Sanctuary at Longboat Key Club, said the suggestions introduced in traffic studies are interesting — including one about reversing a westbound lane on John Ringling Boulevard during peak afternoon traffic hours — but they’re just that: ideas.

“Let’s start implementing these ideas,” Newmark said.

See also: Barrier island traffic study reaches second milestone

Carol Peschel said she’s “deeply skeptical” of the study. 

Some of the FDOT recommendations — including the proposed $30 million gondola and water taxis — could offer more tourism attractions that would bring more people to already congested islands, Peschel said.

Carol Peschel, 15-year resident of Longboat Key at FDOT's Dec. 5 showcase of its latest traffic solutions.

“I think they’re not looking at it as a solution to the day-to-day problem that we have that get blown up in the season to extreme proportions,” Peschel said.

Winding Oaks resident Joel Ehrenpreis said the problem is getting worse. The four-year Longboat resident said although he thinks FDOT is moving in the right direction, the presentation left with him with questions.

“What’s the next step? Who’s going to pay for it and who’s going to make the decisions?” Ehrenpreis asked. 

FDOT will have to collaborate with municipalities on some of the larger and longer-term projects, Burch said, but many of the short-term solutions could be completed without local cooperation.

Burch said there could be another meeting early next year.

FDOT is committed to get something done with this program, he said, “so when this study is over we don’t just say ‘traffic is bad and there’s nothing we can do about it.’”

Updated Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 9:30 a.m.

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