Less than two months into the construction of a roundabout at Fruitville Road and U.S. 41, some barrier islands residents and leaders are expressing concern about how the project is affecting traffic onto mainland Sarasota.
At a Jan. 9 St. Armands Business Improvement District meeting, the group discussed gridlock they attributed to the roundabout project and traffic diversions associated with the work. The conversation focused on one change in particular: the elimination of one of three left turn lanes from eastbound Gulfstream Avenue onto northbound U.S. 41.
The city’s addition of the third left turn lane in 2017 drew support from barrier island stakeholders who said the design change noticeably improved traffic flow. Now with a turn lane scheduled to be closed through March, St. Armands business and property owners say the detrimental effect is noticeable too.
“For some people, it’s taking an hour and 10 minutes just to get from the Circle to the light at Gulfstream and 41,” said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association.
Although the Florida Department of Transportation said it had not heard much feedback regarding the lane closure, Corrigan said she had spoken to other barrier island residents who were displeased with the detour plan, as well.
The St. Armands BID indicated a desire to reach out to FDOT to discuss a strategy to adjust the closure to minimize the impacts during rush hour, particularly if the lane remains closed into peak season.
BID Board Member Geoffrey Michel suggested the construction presented traffic issues beyond the Gulfstream turn-lane closure.
“It’s Fruitville that’s the challenge,” Michel said. “The congestion heading north on 41 is all the way back to around Selby sometimes.”
The BID is scheduled to meet with FDOT representatives in March. The group hoped to get in contact with the organization’s leaders earlier than that to emphasize the importance of addressing any congestion issues that can be mitigated during the busiest time of the year for businesses.
“We need to have a really strong season where people aren’t frustrated,” Corrigan said.
The $7.47 million Fruitville Road roundabout project is scheduled for completion in the fall.