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Longboat commissioner to FDOT: swing for the fences

With Barrier Islands Traffic Study, Jack Daly hopes for big, deliverable ideas.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. June 14, 2017
Jack Daly is Longboat Key's representative on the board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Jack Daly is Longboat Key's representative on the board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
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When it comes to the Sarasota-Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study, Commissioner Jack Daly urges the Florida Department of Transportation to “leave no stone unturned.”

As Longboat Key’s representative on the board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Daly has been a proponent of the study since 2015. In May, FDOT announced the kickoff of the $675,000 project, in which the department will collect and analyze data to determine remedies for traffic problems on Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island and Lido Key, including the three accesses at State Road 64, Cortez Road and John Ringling Parkway.

After the first of the study’s steering committee meetings, which was held May 23 at Town Hall, Daly emphasized the significance of the study via a June 5 memo to FDOT.

“Simply put, to use a baseball analogy, the (study) may be the final game of the World Series for regional traffic solutions, resulting in either a win or loss for the Islands,” Daly wrote.

While Daly said he appreciates FDOT’s initiative and responsiveness in conducting the study, he hopes the department is looking past solutions that only take into consideration existing regional infrastructure, like the implementation of roundabouts and “Park-N-Ride” locations, which would allow motorists to park on the mainland and ride a shuttle to the islands.

Again comparing the situation to America’s pastime, Daly referred to the aforementioned solutions as “important singles and doubles, which are essential,” but the study should also strive for “a home run.”

By “home run,” Daly means a major addition to the infrastructure of the barrier islands, including, but not limited to, a bridge or tunnel to Longboat.

The commissioner suggested that, for now, the department focus less on the environmental and financial challenges of implementing such remedies, and more on “whether and how they would offer significant traffic mitigation” for the islands.

Longboater George Shaps, meanwhile, has been imploring Longboat officials and residents to petition the governor’s office for the implementation of a $10 toll for through-traffic on Gulf of Mexico Drive for non-Key residents. Shaps believes his plan would reroute island through traffic to U.S. 301 and prevent FDOT from implementing roundabouts along U.S. 41.

Daly said the idea of making GMD a toll road is the kind of major infrastructure changes that should be considered in the study, and FDOT should determine the prevalence of current and future through traffic on the Key.

“We’ve got a vehicle now that’s well-founded to make that kind of analysis,” Daly said.

The commissioner added that it’s too early to determine what the ideal solutions are, and, while he encourages public involvement in traffic issues, Daly said it will be likely more effective for residents to petition the state and federal government for implementation after FDOT’s traffic experts have determined specific recommendations.

“We need specific remedies to rally around,” Daly said.

Tom Freiwald, of the Revitalization Task Force, also stressed the importance of ensuring recommendations are realized and implemented.

“With the help of FDOT, this could be the first time ever that we had a traffic study that really did something,” Freiwald said.

Daly summed up his thoughts on how this study could mitigate traffic for Key residents.

“This is our one shot,” he said. “This is our best shot.”



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