Longboat condo complex warns of traffic circle side effects
Tangerine Bay board says long-term vision for GMD might make it harder to exit and enter residences and businesses.
| 1:00 p.m. March 12, 2019
A proposed traffic circle at the south end of Longboat Key is likely years away from serious consideration, but at least one organization is already raising concerns about safety.
The board of directors of Tangerine Bay Club wrote in a letter recently that the desired gains in traffic flow could make it difficult for residents of the community in the 300 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, and others, to enter and exit. The board also called into question pedestrian safety if and when the traffic light at Longboat Club Drive is removed.
“Currently, during season and peak hours, a left turn exit from Tangerine Bay Club involves a wait for a gap in the northbound traffic and then a harrowing and dangerous turn into the center turn lane to wait for a kind soul to let one into the traffic flow,’’ the board’s letter says, adding that the traffic light just to its south now offers an occasional break when it turns red.
“Installation of a roundabout at this busy intersection will significantly decrease the gaps,’’ the seven-member board wrote.
Throughout the season, the neighborhood around Tangerine Bay is a focal point of traffic frustrations. Even under optimum conditions, traffic in both directions stacks up at the traffic light at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Longboat Club Road.
Jim Curtis, president of the Tangerine Bay board of directors, said the situation at the entrance to his gated community gets worse this time of year, particularly in the morning and afternoon drive times and around lunchtime. It’s not an urgent matter, but he said the board wanted to be heard sooner rather than later.
“Our thought was to get our concerns into the hopper before it’s a fait accompli,” he said.
Curtis said people in his community had heard of the possibility of a traffic circle in the long term, but discovery of more detailed information in the last few weeks prompted the community to speak up, Curtis said, acknowledging it’s far from a decided proposal.
Traffic circles have been discussed as part of long-term visions for the town on the northern and southern ends of the island.
Among four projects submitted to the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization for preliminary funding consideration earlier this year were circles at Broadway Street and Gulf of Mexico Drive and Longboat Club Road and Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Additionally, an improved southbound left-turn lane opposite Country Club Shores was prioritized, along with improvements to the multiuse trail on the north end of the island.
Even though the town would like to see the trail upgrades take place, the top funding request sent to the MPO is the several-years-old proposal to build left turn lanes near Country Club Shores.
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 southern traffic circle is likely further off as the Longboat Key Club considers its next move in preparation for redevelopment and expansion along the route of its recently renovated main entrance.
“We agree that better traffic flow on Longboat Key is desirable, but it must not come at the expense of the safety of the residents, visitors, customers and service providers of those who live or do business on the bay side of Gulf of Mexico Drive,” the board’s letter said.
Curtis, who has lived on Longboat Key since 2004, said safety is the board’s prime concern. A few extra minutes of waiting for traffic are inconsequential, he said. But he worries drivers can grow frustrated while a steady stream of traffic passes, causing them to lose awareness of cyclists or pedestrians.