Sarasota and Longboat Key leaders discussed roundabout construction, a new trolley and other possibilities to improve transportation.
State and city officials were adamant Monday in a joint meeting between Longboat Key and Sarasota leaders that roundabout construction at U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue is on schedule.
Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier said Monday it would have been “problematic” had Sarasota city commissioners decided to change the roundabout design, as had been requested by a group of residents.
“There have been some reports recently about issues raised by one of the condominiums in the zone of construction looking for a change in design, which might result in a delay of construction to put not too fine a point on it,” Schneier said. “But, I just wondered what the current status to that is with the city?”
Some Sarasota residents advocated for the city to change the roundabout design, expressing their concerns about drivers’ ability to navigate the reconfigured intersection.
Sarasota Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch said the City Commission voted against the proposed changes to the roundabout on Nov. 1.
“I’m not sure that I knew this,” Schneier said.
Florida Department of Transportation construction manager Jim Nichols said the plan is to finish the project by fall 2022. He said the completion of the roundabout itself is scheduled for May or June 2022.
Nichols said construction has taken away pedestrians’ ability to cross the streets near the roundabout construction for two reasons:
- Safety and protection of pedestrians
- It allows contractor Russell Engineering more space to complete the work
FDOT hired Russell Engineering for the $8.6 million project.
“The project originally was designed to be 650 contract days, but with innovative (Maintenance of Traffic) methods as well as making adjustments to the pedestrian movements, we’ve been able to chop that down to the original 450 days as part of this contract,” Nichols said.
Schneier said Monday’s joint meeting between the Longboat Key Town Commission and Sarasota City Commission did not alleviate his concerns about roundabout construction, “but not in a bad way.”
“I think that after some hiccups at the start of (Gulfstream Avenue and U.S.) 41, (it) has worked pretty well,” Schneier said. “Now, we’ll see what happens as people come back more and more.”
On Monday, city and town leaders discussed a downtown trolley to take people to and from downtown Sarasota to St. Armands Circle, the completion of Sarasota’s water taxi feasibility study and Sarasota’s proposed bike-share and electric scooter-share program.
Sarasota Parking Manager Mark Lyons said CPR Medical Transportation — which runs the Siesta Key Breeze trolley — will manage the city’s trolley service.
“They’re very familiar with the type of operations that’s required,” Lyons said.
Lyons said the city leaders envision water taxis someday operating through Ken Thompson Park, (Sarasota’s) Bayfront Park, St. Armands and the Bay Project.
“Parking is always important where a water taxi would operate,” Lyons said.
Schneier and Town Manager Tom Harmer didn’t fathom a guess of where specifically a water taxi stop could go in Longboat Key.
“We’re interested in staying involved with you and understanding what your research is showing to the extent that Longboat Key might be able to a participant, maybe even a landing point,” Schneier said.
Schneier said Ken Thompson Park might be the closest Sarasota could get. Harmer mentioned how private restaurants are also a possibility.
“Even the Buccaneer Restaurant has floated the idea of becoming a water taxi stop,” Harmer said of the proposed mid-island restaurant.
Harmer also mentioned the Shore Longboat Key and Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant as possible water taxi stops.
Lyons said eight companies have approached the city about the bike share and e-scooter program. He said the city planned to operate the program from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with specific geofencing to control where the scooters could operate.
Sarasota Commissioner Hagen Brody said he thought it was critical for the city to work with the town, other nearby municipalities and Sarasota County on their bike share and scooter share program. He said it wouldn’t make sense to have different programs in different municipalities.
“We all have locations where I think people would want to visit, so I really tried to keep an open dialogue with the town and other municipalities, and I’m encouraging staff to do the same on particularly the bike share and scooter share program,” Brody said.
Schneier said the bike share company Bird and another company have approached the town.
“There’s no point of reinventing whatever wheel the city has invented, and that may even involve us collaborating with them on one provider which would be great if we decide to do it at all,” Schneier said.
Gulf of Mexico Drive traffic safety
On Monday, the town sent the Observer notice about trucks following state law along Gulf of Mexico Drive.
“Vehicle transport trucks are not permitted to unload vehicles on GMD,” Longboat Key Support Services Director Carolyn Brown wrote in an email. “If you are utilizing a car carrier to deliver your vehicle to Longboat Key, please advise them to not unload on or along Gulf of Mexico Drive.”
Longboat Key police are ticketing drivers for failure to comply. Anyone who sees someone breaking the law can call the police department’s non-emergency number at 941-316-1977.
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