City commissioners issued a new list of roundabout priorities during their Sept. 21 meeting.
It’s a web of ifs, ands or buts that take into consideration bayfront connectivity, projects already in place and the possibility of throwing away more than $100,000.
The commission voted to take $817,000 intended for a longer turn lane from John Ringling Causeway to U.S. 41 and put it toward a roundabout at 10th Street.
If the state, which has final say on what happens on the federal highway, won’t allow that money to be shifted, then commissioners said they’d like it to go toward the roundabout at Five Points Park.
Commissioners also voted to keep the $800,000 originally intended to build a roundabout at Palm Avenue and Ringling Boulevard to still be used for that purpose.
Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner had suggested previously that the Palm and Ringling roundabout be delayed, because he wasn’t sure if the traffic at that intersection warranted a roundabout.
The city, though, has already paid about $130,000 for the design of that roundabout, and if the city decided it didn’t want a roundabout there, that money would be lost.
“I appreciate the fact that the work has been done and we have an investment there,” said Kirschner. “If we’re looking at a project that has no urgency, maybe we have a better use for this money.”
According to city engineer Alex Davis Shaw, the reason for shifting the money away from a longer right-turn lane from the causeway to U.S. 41 is because a long, uninterrupted lane of traffic does not meet the city’s goal of greater pedestrian accessibility.
The proposed roundabout at 10th Street is part of a bayfront-connectivity plan, which calls for a total of five roundabouts along U.S. 41. Commissioners thought it would be a good idea to build a test roundabout to see how people liked it.
However, it could be three years or more before construction could begin.
Davis Shaw explained to commissioners that because some city land would need to be used to make room for the roundabout and the Florida Department of Transportation requires that the city transfer that land to the state, the process takes a long time.
She said a six-year time frame was estimated for a roundabout at Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41.
“So it doesn’t matter if you have all the money available, and you have the design for a roundabout,” Kirschner said. “Weaving through the bureaucratic maze will take years. That’s shocking to me, particularly in these economic times.”
Davis Shaw said she’d investigate whether there would be a similar delay at 10th Street.