- June 13, 2018
We asked a few weeks ago to imagine wearing the crown of power when it comes to traffic, and let us know your no-holds-barred solutions to sitting for a hour behind a rusty Toyota Camry waiting for your turn to drive to the mainland. Here's what you said:
Pedestrian bridges are a must
First off, it will take all hands on deck to solve this problem. The present situation is unacceptable and will have far-reaching negative impacts on government revenues as tourist abandon Sarasota. Secondly, I believe the planners who decided to insanely disrupt traffic during the busy season should be held accountable, and they should go sit in traffic starting at the Publix on Longboat Key and drive to downtown at 5 p.m. for a week straight.
While traffic decision-making is being done both locally and at the state level, the true decision-makers should all be local as they know the reality and can be held more accountable.
One of the first things that needs to be done is to elevate all pedestrian crossways over U.S. 41 in downtown Sarasota as skybridges. Years ago, a tireless Sarasota city planner designed a beautiful skybridge over U.S. 41, and it was a piece of art.
Presently traffic stops at the Ritz-Carlton as tourists cross the street to get to downtown Sarasota. Secondly, they have to reinstate the third left turn lane (eastbound from North Gulfstream Avenue to northbound U.S. 41) until the season is over.
The solution with the biggest impact would be a mid-key bridge; it would ration traffic extremely well as people would put their destinations into Google maps and traffic routes would be selected based on fastest times.
More options for St. Armands Circle
As a suggestion, I think that the idea of an overall horizontal road expansion should be added to St. Armands/Longboat Key.
As a slightly experienced driver, I have been driving around St. Armands, Lido Key, and Longboat Key for two years, and there’s always
a similar issue; there are only two lanes, and the traffic on those two lanes never moves forward. This may be a result of the congested pedestrian traffic on the circle, however it almost feels like the road space and circle in general is far too small and congested for automotive transport.
This could be solved by an expansion plan to widen the circle, as well as a new system for pedestrians, such as a bridge walkway, to allow for a smoother roundabout experience.
Control the pedestrians
One of the problems is off our Key and is St Armands Circle and the backup it causes.
The problem is not the cars but the pedestrians who are uncontrolled. They can and do cross the traffic whenever they want and sometimes where they want. To control them and give a freer flow to the circle would ease the problem. This can be done by installing pedestrian crossing lights at each crossing. They are simple and inexpensive and are elsewhere on the Key.
There should be a law forbidding crossing anywhere else, and the police should enforce the correct use of the lights. With a regular flow of traffic whilst the pedestrians have to learn to wait, the traffic leaving the Circle will get more movement.
I have seen this work in cities much more congested.
Traffic traveling only on LBK cannot be solved with two bottlenecks at the bridges. Even widening them would solve nothing. Unless you want to widen GMD (yes, there is room). A ferry to Sarasota may sound great but are we really expected to drive to a dock, park there and take a ferry to Sarasota a find onward transport. And lug our shopping around with us?
Crossing guards in Coquina Beach
I would develop a traffic attendant system similar to school crossing guards that would man the roundabout beside the Legion in Coquina Beach during peak season.
Their duty would to not allow every pedestrian to stop the flow of traffic but at least let a nominal amount of trafffic flow between pedestrians.
Currently during season almost every car has to stop to allow pedestrians to cross during the rush hour.
Police officers could help
If the city would have a police officer directing traffic at the intersection of U.S. 41 and the Ringling Causeway from 4-6 p.m.. it would alleviate cars blocking the box, preventing cars which have a green light from turning.
No need to use Big Pass as drawbridge
Last week I was returning to LBK and was held up a long time because the New Pass bridge was up. After the bridge was back down, the traffic was backed up all the way to Publix.
This all because a sailboat was being towed in from the gulf.
I have been a boater on Longboat Key for the past 23 years using New Pass to get to the gulf. The pass can be very difficult, as the route out to avoid grounding is constantly changing. Also, New Pass is not considered a navigable pass by the Coast Guard and no markers to guide boaters safely through are in place. One permanent marker buoy is in place at what used to be the entrance from the Gulf. But if anybody unfamiliar with the pass relied on that marker, they would almost certainly run aground.
There are two excellent passes to get to the gulf from the bay. Longboat Pass to the north and Big Pass to the south. Both of these passes are conveniently located.
Closing the opening of the New Pass bridge would significantly improve traffic flow in both directions on Gulf of Mexico Drive, with minimal impact on boaters.
A new bridge could be the answer
The best solution is a bridge from City Island to 10th Street.
If that can’t be accomplished, a bridge from City Island to Bird Key.
Otherwise, control pedestrians in St. Armands Circle with walk/don’t walk signals. Enforce pedestrian activity by eliminating crossing away from crosswalks and get rid of the speed bumps.
Traffic is killing our property values and making LBK uninhabitable for this 23-year resident.
William E Chapman, II
Don't forget the pedestrians
Fine all drivers seen texting, looking at phones while not watching road. How many countless times are people slow to respond to red/green light changes, blocking lanes, keeping traffic stalled?
City must teach all drivers, even snowbirds and tourists, how to follow rules of right of way in traffic circles. People blow through traffic circles without ceding right of way. It's very dangerous!
Fine cars not giving right of way to pedestrians. Enact laws favoring pedestrians. Fix crosswalk and turn-light signs to be compatible.
Make city planning in Sarasota and on the Keys more consciously sustainable.
Stop overbuilding downtown without adequate sidewalks and shade.
Buildings put up decades ago make road-widening impossible. Make better decisions for future development.
Make Sarasota and the Keys known for safety rather than tragic accidents. I know of too many such accidents.
Little things will work
There is a tendency to jump to big-ticket solutions. If I were king, as you suggested, small items might work best.
This came to me while sitting in nearly standstill eastbound traffic over the big bridge while joggers and uphill bicyclists passed me and westbound traffic zipped along. Of course, it was 4:45 p.m.
The extra turn lane at U.S. 41 solved a big problem, but now it's coned off as work begins on the traffic circle at Fruitville. Temporary, but silly. Let's do work when it makes sense to do work, not when the biggest demands are placed on our traffic system.
Let's also make a bus system that really works, not one that requires an hour wait. Sure it will lose money. It's not a business, it's not supposed to be profitable.
Let's also stop every Tom, Dick and Harriet from crossing St. Armands Circle at whim. Funnel them into a few controlled locations and make it clear this is how you cross a street.
Pedestrian light signals are the answer
St. Armands Circle is always busy, but it really gets to be a huge logjam during the busy season and at peak times.
Since pedestrians have the right of way to cross the streets around and through the circle, the cars can really get backed up waiting for the walkers to cross.
I would recommend pedestrian crossing lights at St Armands Circle so that a group of walkers can cross at one time, then allow vehicles to go while the next set of walkers wait for their light. I’m not advocating traffic light signals, just pedestrian light signals.