With the city in the midst of an effort to cut down on roadway congestion problems, the Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association held an event Monday to educate its members on the topic of traffic.
The panel discussion gave city officials an opportunity to update residents on those efforts, which have taken place at a series of transportation workshops. Those meetings have focused largely on enhancing other modes of transportation to reduce the total number of trips on the road network.
It also gave residents the chance to address questions and concerns directly with the four city officials on the panel: engineers Alex DavisShaw and Daniel Ohrenstein, Chief Planner Ryan Chapdelain and Urban Design Studio Director Karin Murphy.
A pair of questions from the audience Monday pertained to how the city measures the impact of new developments on the roadway system. Those questions expressed concern about the city’s relatively low multimodal transportation fees for new developments and an effort to abandon traffic study requirements for projects that don’t meet a certain size threshold.
DavisShaw attributed recent state regulations to limiting the city’s ability to make developers pay for their impact on the road network. She said the switch to a multimodal system at least allowed the city to spend developer money on a variety of transportation projects, rather than just road improvements, and that the City Commission had the capability to adjust rates as it sees fit.
"The city of Sarasota could put a moratorium tomorrow on growth — it’s not going to stop the traffic coming through here." — Karin Murphy
Although Murphy said she would like to see more regional traffic studies done, she said studies that just require an examination of the immediately adjacent streets often aren’t helpful — and wanted developers to be able to pay their proportionate share and move forward in the process without lengthy delay. She added that, even absent any new development, the city would have a larger transportation issue it needs to address.
“The city of Sarasota could put a moratorium tomorrow on growth — it’s not going to stop the traffic coming through here,” Murphy said. “All of those trips from all of the growth out east and south are coming through here unless we really start to look at these modal shifts.”
As the city works on plans to install a series of roundabouts along U.S. 41 in the coming years, another question asked whether residents would be properly equipped to use the multi-lane roundabouts. DavisShaw said the first few single-lane downtown roundabouts have seen minimal problems with driver behavior, but the city is planning to work on education and outreach campaigns before the first two U.S. 41 roundabouts are installed at 10th and 14th streets.
“We want people know how to select the right lane and about rights of way and that sort of thing,” DavisShaw said.
Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association President Patrick Gannon said traffic was a leading concern for members of the organization, and that Monday's event was a helpful step toward educating residents and addressing key issues.
“We were extremely pleased with the turnout,” Gannon said. “This was in early August, when a lot of people are on vacation, but we had a packed room here.”