Traffic barrels blocking access to the third turn lane of Gulfstream Avenue at U.S. 41 on Sarasota’s bayfront are expected to be gone on Tuesday, March 3 as the next phase of construction begins on a roundabout project at the western end of Fruitville Road.
The reopening of the turn lanes is one component of several other changes taking place on the project, which is expected to wrap up in fall 2020.
Additionally, these other traffic-flow changes are expected to take place early next week:
- Westbound Fruitville Road will close at Cocoanut Avenue on Monday, March 2. A detour to U.S. 41 will take drivers north on Lemon Avenue to 10th Street, then west to U.S. 41. An alternative for drivers heading to the barrier islands is Ringling Boulevard to U.S. 41.
- Through traffic in both directions on U.S. 41 will be shifted to a temporary roadway near Fruitville Road on Monday, March 2.
- Work will begin around the clock March 9 to demolish existing pavement in the area to continue construction on the roundabout.
- Eastbound turns to Fruitville Road from northbound U.S. 41 will be unobstructed. Eastbound turns from southbound U.S. 41 will remain off-limits through the duration of the work. The traffic light at that intersection will also be removed as the roundabout work proceeds.
Construction projects underway along U.S. 41 and a roundabout proposed to be built in 2021 at Gulfstream Avenue have been a focal point of angst among barrier island residents and officials this season. Traffic back ups on the Ringling Causeway have been regularly taking place, leading to a flurry of emails and phone calls back and forth from Longboat Key Town Hall, St. Armands Circle, Sarasota City Hall and the Florida Department of Transportation.
On Wednesday, in an email to Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, FDOT Government Affairs & Communications Manager Zachary Burch said the agency has heard the complaints but remains committed to building the large-scale roundabout at U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue.
“FDOT is also aware of the concerns some citizens have expressed regarding construction of the Gulfstream roundabout during or immediately after the completion of the Fruitville and 10th and 14th Street roundabouts,’’ he wrote. “The Department greatly appreciates the patience that drivers, residents and business owners have shown while we have worked on the 10th and 14th Street roundabouts. After discussing these concerns with you and the Town of Longboat Key, FDOT can commit that we will not begin construction of the Gulfstream roundabout project until after the completion of the roundabouts at Fruitville Road, 10th and 14th Street. Furthermore, once construction of the Gulfstream project begins in early 2021, we will ensure construction activities will be limited to avoid lane closures during the 2021 peak season.’’
Longboat Key Mayor George Spoll wrote a letter to Ahearn-Koch last week, urging a delay in the project’s construction and a reconsideration of its long-term usefulness.
Sarasota Commissioner Hagen Brody, in an email to City Manager Tom Barwin, wrote “The traffic situation at Gulf Stream and U.S. 41, and to lesser extent Fruitville and U.S. 41 a couple hundred yards north, is completely untenable for our residents, commuters, and tourists coming off of the island during peak hours’’ and said he was taking steps to secure state permission to station city police officers in the corridor to direct traffic “on an ongoing basis as need arises during the planned infrastructure improvements to keep vehicles moving.’’
Vice President Mike Pence's visit to the area, for a fundraiser at the Longboat Key home of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, is expected to also prompt road closures on Friday afternoon between Sarasota's bayfront and the southern end of Longboat Key.