The temporary installation of traffic calming devices around the Circle has drawn concern from Longboat Key.
Those involved with an effort to install speed tables around St. Armands Circle are getting ready for a potentially bumpy ride.
The Florida Department of Transportation, with the support of the city of Sarasota, plans to place temporary speed tables at eight points around the shopping district early next year. FDOT will study the effects of the traffic-calming devices, which could lead to permanent speed tables.
Stakeholders on the Circle have endorsed the project, hopeful it will slow down traffic and improve pedestrian safety. Not everybody is so supportive, though.
At a Dec. 13 St. Armands Business Improvement District meeting, those in attendance discussed opposition.
“The Longboat Key Town Commission and some people on Longboat Key are upset we’re doing this,” said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association. “They’re thinking we’re going to slow traffic down and make it difficult to get on the island, which is not going to be the case.”
The town of Longboat Key said it had not had substantive discussions with FDOT about the project. But at a Nov. 13 meeting, Longboat Mayor George Spoll expressed frustration about the plans — and floated an idea to frustrate St. Armands residents as an opportunity to get rid of the speed tables.
Spoll said the city installed speed tables in St. Armands neighborhoods to discourage motorists headed to Longboat Key from cutting through residential areas. Spoll said the temporary devices would lead more cars to cut through neighborhoods.
“I suggest we all do that, and I think we ought to encourage the people on the Key to do so,” Spoll said. “Because then, the residents will scream about taking the bumps out at St. Armands, and they have more influence, apparently, than we do.”
Hugh Fiore, a St. Armands Residents Association board member, cited Spoll’s comments as reason to broker a dialogue with Longboat leaders. He agreed the speed tables are necessary to improve safety around the Circle.
But he also was concerned about the prospect of more traffic seeping into the residential areas around the Circle.
“I think we need to sit down and talk it out with them, because the last thing we need is more cut-throughs,” Fiore said. “Our road has become a boulevard for people to come to Longboat Key.”
FDOT did not respond to requests for comment. Corrigan said one of the final steps to be taken before the speed tables are installed is the creation of a process for submitting public input. The city plans to set up an email address to receive comments.
Despite the prospect of pushback from Longboat Key, Corrigan reiterated her belief that speeding is a problem officials need to address — and said the issue was most pressing on the roads that lead from downtown Sarasota to Longboat.
“We have a responsibility to keep people safe,” Corrigan said.
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