The city of Sarasota, the town of Longboat Key and the Florida Department of Transportation are working together to bring crossing guards back to St. Armands Circle intersections during the height of season.
Local and state officials are hopeful the traffic management workers will help improve congestion issues along roads to and from the barrier islands during the busiest time of the year. Although no deal has been finalized, the city is working with a staffing agency to develop a job posting for pedestrian managers on the Circle.
The crossing guards would be stationed at the two busiest crosswalks on St. Armands during peak times and could be in place by this spring, a city spokesman said. The town of Longboat Key has not yet budgeted any funds for the pedestrian manager positions, but officials could discuss the concept at a meeting next month.
FDOT placed crossing guards in St. Armands one time before in 2016 to test the efficacy of managing pedestrian activity in the commercial district. The crossing guards drew mixed reviews from stakeholders, with some Circle businesses suggesting the traffic managers caused more problems than improvements.
A traffic consultant said the guards yielded some positive results, with cars stopping between 22% and 42% less frequently at intersections where guards were present.
Barrier islands officials, businesses and residents have recently expressed concern that the construction of a roundabout at Fruitville Road and U.S. 41 will exacerbate seasonal traffic congestion this year.
FDOT is already testing the efficacy of another traffic management solution on St. Armands Circle: speed humps, designed to slow cars at key intersections to improve pedestrian safety. During a September discussion, members of the St. Armands Business Improvement District questioned whether the speed humps were also negatively affecting the flow of vehicular traffic through the Circle.
At that meeting, BID Chairman Gavin Meshad questioned the effect any one change might have on traffic in the Circle during peak season.
“A part of me is saying, once it’s crowded, it’s crowded, whether you have speed tables or not,” Meshad said.