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Sarasota Wednesday, May 26, 2021 1 year ago

Ritz-Carlton crosswalk to close for construction

In addition to building a roundabout at U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue, the city is working to address flooding issues on the street to the north.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Pedestrians attempting to traverse U.S. 41 near downtown Sarasota are set to lose two points of access this year during construction of a roundabout at Gulfstream Avenue.

In addition to construction that will close the Gulfstream intersection, the city is working with the Florida Department of Transportation and the town of Longboat Key on coordinating the temporary shuttering of the signal-activated pedestrian crosswalk at U.S. 41 and First Street.

The roundabout project includes plans to improve the roadway on U.S. 41 between Gulfstream and Fruitville Road, where another roundabout opened last year. City Manager Marlon Brown referred to the roadwork as a “gap project,” designed to adjust the elevation of the street to address flooding issues that occur in the area of The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.

The state was initially working with local municipalities on plans for a temporary pedestrian bridge extending over U.S. 41 while construction was ongoing. On May 17, however, FDOT District 1 Secretary L.K. Nandam emailed Brown and Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer to inform them the state agency determined the bridge was not feasible. The barrier island town hoped such a pedestrian overpass would serve as a prototype to eventually replace surface pedestrian crossings with the goal of keeping traffic moving. 

Nandam cited longer-than-expected construction time and costs in excess of three times the initial estimate as reasons the bridge was scrapped.

“We all came to the conclusion that this would not be worth it,” Brown said.

Even without the pedestrian bridge, Brown encouraged the state agency to explore the deactivation of the signalized crosswalk and adjustments to the timing of other pedestrian-activated signals in the area. In addition to accessibility concerns during road construction, Brown suggested the pedestrian signal was linked to traffic back-ups along U.S. 41.

Preliminary construction on the Gulfstream roundabout began in March, and the first full phase is scheduled to start in August, according to the FDOT website. Brown said the city may revisit the status of the signalized crosswalk on First Street as seasonal activity picks up.

“We may have to take a look at what we do in the October-November-December-January time frame,” Brown said.

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