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Longboat Key Thursday, Jun. 17, 2021 1 year ago

North-end roundabout design spending part of new budget

Longboat Key wants to move ahead with plans with hopes FDOT can add project to its future construction list.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

Money for engineering and design of a long-discussed north-end roundabout on Gulf of Mexico Drive is part of a $17.7 million town budget proposed for the next fiscal year.

The $300,000 line item for the traffic feature at Broadway Street is part of the spending and revenue plan Town Commissioners discussed Monday morning.

“It’s always been identified as a part of the Barrier Island Traffic Study that would help the island in a couple of ways,” Harmer said. “One of those is safety because you have the curve that’s coming in if you’re coming from Bradenton Beach.”

Following certification of town property values on July 1, commissioners will set a not-to-exceed millage rate for the budget on July 2, then pick up the approval process in September after the elected officials’ summer break.

The preliminary overall budget represents a $475,669 (2.8%) increase in spending from the fiscal 2021 budget. Without raising the 2.1144 millage rate, expenses will exceed revenues by $576,149 and would be covered by fund-balance reserves, which would be reduced to 222 operating days, though final valuation figures from Manatee and Sarasota counties could change those figures. Initial estimates from both county's tax assessors' offices indicate property values have risen a combined 5.37% after a slight drop in 2020. The town has been working with a projection of a 4% increase in property valuations. 

Th the town plans to move ahead with design and engineering of the roundabout then lobby for the construction phase of the project be slotted into the Florida Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan as a ready-to-build endeavor.

Motorists and residents of Longbeach Village have long complained about the difficulty in pulling out of the neighborhood at the intersection because of shorter-than-typical views north and south of gently curving Gulf of Mexico Drive from the stop sign at Broadway Street. The roundabout has also been billed as an aesthetically pleasing entrance to the town from the north.

A signalized crosswalk is about 100 yards north of Gulf of Mexico Drive's intersection with Broadway Street.

Around 9,700 vehicles pass the Broadway Street and GMD intersection in both directions on a daily basis.

As early as 2014, state highway officials said such a traffic-calming feature on the north end could serve to aid not only drivers but also pedestrians crossing GMD in a spot not conducive to a crosswalk. A signalized crosswalk stands about 100 yards to the north.

“A roundabout would accomplish multiple things,” said L.K. Nandem, FDOT’s district secretary who was then the district’s traffic engineer. “It would actually slow the entry speed into the town, and secondly it would actually provide the slow moving around in the intersection that accommodates crossing.”

Also in 2014, consultants from Urban Land Institute recommended the town consider remaking the intersection to reduce crashes and congestion on the north end.

Since then, beachgoers parking on the west side of GMD have new reasons to cross the highway to reach Whitney’s Beachside, a restaurant at the corner designed and built with a proposed roundabout in mind for the future.  Additionally, The Shore restaurant now attracts customers down Broadway, as does Mar Vista Dockside.

Long-term concepts for Gulf of Mexico Drive also include a southern roundabout at Longboat Club Drive, but funding for that has not yet materialized.

“I think there’s a safety component that’s at a higher level concern with Broadway,” Harmer said.

Harmer mentioned how there is the possibility of future development near Longboat Club Drive and the Key Club. 

“Maybe [a Longboat Club Drive roundabout] should be tied into the planning related to their projects, and so it was always considered like second in line,” Harmer said.

The town plans to conduct a Gulf of Mexico Drive corridor study. Harmer said it could provide an opportunity to look at the possibility of adding a roundabout at Longboat Club Drive. 

Reporter Mark Bergin contributed to this story.

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