At a Town Commission workshop meeting last week, Town Manager Dave Bullock thanked Sarasota officials for “coming into the lion’s den.”
The officials attended the meeting to present an overview of the city’s development plans and how they will affect the regional transportation network, including barrier islands.
Sarasota Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown, City Engineer Alex DavisShaw and Chief Planner Steve Stancel attended.
A point of contention arose with the commission when Stancel presented options for the redevelopment of Fruitville Road.
One option includes reducing Fruitville to a two-lane road between North Lemon Avenue and Cocoanut Avenue, with roundabouts at those two intersections as well as Central Avenue. Bicycle lanes would be removed, and sidewalks would be widened to 16 feet along the three-intersection stretch.
The other alternative includes widening sidewalks to 10 feet and removing bike lanes.
As Stancel presented the plan, Mayor Terry Gans reaffirmed his stance on the project. Gans has been a vocal opponent of the proposal, saying the idea of reducing the road to one lane and adding roundabouts does not take into account the needs of residents of the barrier islands, who use Fruitville Road as an east-west route.
In response, Stancel said the project is designed to handle future traffic, which is based on Sarasota’s projections.
Though Bullock conceded he’s not a traffic engineer, he said, in his experience as a driver, there’s always a backup, or “choke point,” when two lanes reduce to one during high traffic times.
Stancel said engineers will need to make sure the transition area is long enough be able to handle the traffic coming off Orange Avenue.
As an alternative to the plan, Commissioner Jim Brown asked if any consideration had been given to making Fruitville Road a one-way road going east, while switching a road like 10th Street to a one-way going west.
Brown theorized this option would allow the city to improve the aesthetic aspects of Fruitville Road while taking into account the flow of traffic.
Davis Shaw said the idea had not been explored for this project, adding that a residential area on 10th Street removes the street as an option.
After the exchange, Brown offered the officials a suggestion.
“I would just urge you, when your presentation is over, wait until 5 o’clock and then drive home,” Brown said. “It really is a nightmare.”
At the meeting, city staff also updated town commissioners on another 11 roundabouts in development on the mainland.