Longboat Key town staff is “moving in the right direction” when it comes to proposed enhancements to Gulf of Mexico Drive, according to the Town Commission.
At Monday’s workshop meeting, Town Manager Dave Bullock and Assistant Town Manager Mike Hein gave a presentation, including a simulation that demonstrates these changes, including:
- Two roundabouts at the north and south ends of the Key: one at Longboat Club Road, and one at Broadway Street;
- Landscaped medians;
- Multiuse paths on both sides of GMD, equipped with low pathway lighting;
- Separating bike lanes from traffic lanes with enhanced visual separation; and
- Improved bus shelters.
A video simulation of the enhancements can be viewed here.
With the changes, the town hopes to improve safety and convenience for the Key’s motorists, pedestrians and cyclists while enhancing the aesthetic aspects of GMD.
The proposals are the result of recommendations made by the Urban Land Institute. In its 2013 study, ULI explored ideas to improve the GMD corridor. The town allocated $50,000 in the FY 2016-17 budget to create conceptual plans for GMD improvements, shown during the workshop.
The town has not yet explored cost estimates for the possible improvements, nor a timeline.
Bullock noted that a challenge is balancing GMD’s role as a state route, managed by the Florida Department of Transportation, with its function as a “Main Street” for Longboat Key.
The simulation showed cars moving north and south on GMD using two-lane roundabouts, and trees and bushes shading walkers on the multiuse paths.
Flashing lights built into the crosswalks notified motorists of pedestrians crossing GMD.
With these improvements, the speed limit will remain 45 mph.
The town is separately working to develop a dedicated turn lane on GMD for the Country Club Shores neighborhood, and any of these additional proposed changes to the roadway can be integrated into that project, Hein said.
Hein said specific aspects of the plan still require consideration, such as ensuring there is enough space in the right of way to implement the changes, plus a stormwater analysis.
“We need to do a lot of work,” Hein said. “We’re in the very preliminary stage of this.”
The discussion comes as the town prepares a project to bury utilities and hide from sight other utility equipment along GMD. Construction on the $50 million project is expected to begin next year.
Members of the Town Commission gave town management input, but were generally supportive of the enhancements.
Mayor Terry Gans suggested using rumble strips to separate the bicycle lanes from the driving lanes, while Vice Mayor Ed Zunz wondered if it could be possible to entirely separate bicycle lanes from the roadway.
Commissioner Irwin Pastor raised concerns about ensuring the signal at Ken Thompson Parkway will coordinate with the south end roundabout, and Commissioner Randy Clair emphasized that the movement of emergency vehicles needs to be properly considered.
Gail Loefgren, president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, said her organization is excited by the potential “beautification” of GMD and is following these developments with interest.
Tom Freiwald, chairman of the Revitalization Task Force, said he is skeptical of the idea of landscaped medians because of maintenance issues, but he said his organization is supportive of the idea of the two roundabouts on GMD.
“They could become entryways we could be proud of,” Freiwald said.