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Longboat Key Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 1 year ago

St. Armands Circle crossing guards to return in March

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The town of Longboat Key, city of Sarasota and the Florida Department of Transportation agreed to evenly split the cost of the program.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

St. Armands Circle is set to see the return of crossing guards next month to help keep traffic flowing during peak snowbird season.

From March 6 through April 4, pedestrian monitors are set to be in place from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and from noon-6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

“It’s something that we tried last year,” Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “It was really a reinvigoration of a pilot program from a few years ago.”

The program is funded by an equal partnership between the town of Longboat Key, city of Sarasota and Florida Department of Transportation. Harmer said Longboat Key has about $25,000 budgeted for the program, though he does not expect it to cost that much.

Initially, the city of Sarasota had problems finding pedestrian monitors willing to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city is responsible for hiring and training the personnel.

Harmer said he and the town had hoped for the program to start sooner.

“I also know that this year’s unique,” Harmer said. “We’re still in COVID, and so traffic patterns are a little bit different, and maybe a little less than they would normally be.”

According to Harmer, the town is a proponent of having the program run longer in future years once the pandemic is a thing of the past.

“We still think doing it over a longer period of time makes sense for most of season, that January through April timeframe,” Harmer said. “We also didn’t want to go through season without doing it. So, we’d rather see it happen than not."

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of the crossing-guard program. Longboat Key, Sarasota and FDOT had agreed to split the program’s total cost of $21,000.

The program launched in 2016 to post trained crossing guards at key locations on the circle, gathering groups of pedestrians to cross at once, rather than allowing individuals or small groups to cross more frequently. The goal was to keep cars moving for longer periods of time to ease  traffic congestion.

The municipalities will seek feedback on the crossing-guard program.

“Some of it will be anecdotal,” Harmer said. “Some of it may be a little more engineering-based.”

FDOT has also agreed to the town’s request to evaluate traffic flow to the Lido Beach spoke of the circle. Traffic often gets backed up because of people’s desire to go to the beach and the number of parking spaces on the west end of the circle.

“They’ve indicated that they would try to monitor that conflict and come up with maybe some recommendations on how to improve it,” Harmer said. “We’ve asked that they eliminate some of the spaces.”

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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