Longboat Key’s wish list of transportation improvement projects submitted to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization fund this year looks much the same as it did the previous year, but with one notable exception: a connection of the town’s multiuse trail from Broadway Street to the Longboat Pass bridge.
The trail on the east side of Gulf of Mexico Drive crosses Broadway Street and runs north to a crosswalk, where it transitions to the west side of the highway. The proposal would establish a 10-foot wide multiuse trail to fill the gap on the east side of GMD to the Longboat Pass, as permitting and right of way issues allow, and also on the west side, from Broadway Street to the crosswalk to the north.
“Between now and June, we should learn if it is going to be funded,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said.
The Sarasota/Bradenton MPO is a 17-member regional transportation planning body for Sarasota and Manatee counties. It works with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to prioritize projects for funding.
Commissioner Jack Daly, a voting member of the MPO regional board, said there are many people on Longboat Key who walk or cycle along the trail elsewhere on the island and would benefit from a final connection. The problem, Daly said, is there is no guarantee that a project will get financial backing because of the number of regional proposals and a limited pool of money.
“The project goes to the regional committee, who will vote. Those recommendations then go to the state,” Daly said. “I am only one vote.”
If funding for a project is rejected, it can be proposed again. In some cases, depending on funding competition, that project could move up the MPO priority list, he said.
Even though the town would like to see the trail connection, the top funding request sent to the MPO is a several-years-old proposal to build left turn lanes near Country Club Shores, from Longboat Club Road to Channel Drive.
“We have been pushing that along for financing,” for two or three years, Daly said.
Also on the commission’s MPO project priorities are traffic circles at Broadway Street and GMD on the north end and Longboat Club Road and GMD on the southern end.
Around 9,700 vehicles pass the Broadway and GMD intersection in both directions on a daily basis. There is no timeline for consideration of the traffic circle, but $150,000 has been set aside by the Town Commission to further study its feasibility.
The proposed traffic circle at Longboat Club Road, however, is even further off because the Resort at Longboat Key Club has not filed plans to convert 300 residential units within Islandside to tourism units and construct a $100 million hotel.
The May 2015 referendum for the hotel was approved by 1,948 votes, or 53% in favor, to 1,721 votes, or 47% against.
“Until the Longboat Key Club files a plan, it’s a preliminary project,” Daly said.