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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 2, 2020 1 month ago

State examines future of Fruitville Road corridor

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The state is emphasizing safety and multimodal transportation as it considers changes to a road that stretches from the interstate to downtown Sarasota.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

At the beginning of a June 25 virtual presentation on the Florida Department of Transportation’s efforts to produce a corridor vision plan for Fruitville Road, planning consultant Jay Hood addressed an important question: What, exactly, does a “corridor vision plan” entail?

Hood explained that FDOT is examining the future of a segment of Fruitville Road that’s nearly 6 miles long, extending from U.S. 301 to just east of Interstate 75. The state agency wants to craft a long-term vision that reflects the various ways the community uses the corridor. Once complete, the vision will be used to inform decision-making regarding future projects on the road.

The state began the process last year. The work included engaging with city and county officials, examining traffic data and reviewing land-use policies for the area adjacent to Fruitville. In February, FDOT held a stakeholders meeting to get input from the community about the roadway. On June 25, the agency held a second meeting to gather more feedback and share an update on the process thus far.

Based on the information FDOT has already gathered, it’s identified a few priorities that will guide the Fruitville Road visioning process. Hood said that historically in America, people have viewed road capacity through the lens of how many vehicles a street can handle. FDOT Planning Studio Bessie Reina said that approach is understandable on Fruitville Road — there are people who drive it every day to get to destinations along the street, and it’s also a thoroughfare linking the interstate to the barrier islands.

Still, the corridor plan will be designed to acknowledge that vehicular traffic isn’t the only activity taking place on Fruitville. Hood said the road is a place where people live, work, play and attend school.

Those involved with the visioning effort believe the road design could better reflect the mix of uses along the corridor.

“When you have a variety of destinations to consider, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t efficient,” Reina said.

FDOT has identified five points of emphasis within the project area. One is west of Lockwood Ridge Road, near the Sarasota Fairgrounds and Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. There, the June 25 presentation noted a lack of pedestrian connection between the fairgrounds site and the residential area to the north. Hood said a mid-block crosswalk could serve as a potential solution.

The presentation suggested undertaking similar pedestrian-focused improvements in the other highlighted areas: near Bobby Jones Golf Club, Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School, the Sarasota Crossings commercial complex and the I-75 interchange. Other possible opportunities for change included building trails for cyclists, improving traffic signal timing and enhancing public transit stops.

Beyond accommodating those who would like to make trips without using their cars, FDOT officials say the proposed changes would address what they’ve heard is the community’s top priority for the road: safety.

The presentation also suggested that the speed limit along a portion of the road closest to the city could be reduced from 45 mph to 30 mph. Slower speeds, more crosswalks and protected bike facilities could help cut down on accidents along a road with some traffic collision hot spots, officials said.

“We’re hoping we can create a corridor that’s going to be friendly for everyone from young children up to seniors,” Hood said.

Because the state-controlled stretch of Fruitville Road cuts through the city and county, officials from both jurisdictions are working on the corridor vision plan. Colleen McGue, the city’s chief transportation planner, said the principles guiding the Fruitville project are in line with the priorities included in city staff’s proposed Sarasota in Motion transportation master plan.

City Planning Director Steve Cover said the intergovernmental conversation about Fruitville Road also provided an opportunity to think about future land use planning along the street. One example: He suggested that, in the years to come, redevelopment could bring a number of mixed-use projects on Fruitville. If planned correctly, those commercial and residential developments could create a demand for public transportation service that doesn’t necessarily exist today.

“I think over time, you are going to see some uses we’ll eventually be locating along these corridors that are more conducive to transit,” Cover said.

FDOT plans to launch another public survey on the project in August. The agency will use the feedback it receives to produce a brochure outlining the vision this fall. Once complete, state transportation officials hope that vision will help guide decision-making along Fruitville Road.

“It’s really to envision how this corridor can serve the entire community into the future,” Hood said.

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