Reopened turn lanes, a new mainland traffic flow, a promise to hold off on further traffic disruptions approaching St. Armands Circle and an electronic petition are what’s new on the transportation front in recent days.
Construction projects along U.S. 41 and on the Ringling Causeway have been a focal point of angst among barrier island residents and officials this season, beginning in November when work began east of St. Armands Circle removing invasive Australian pines as part of a project to rebuild the Multi-Use Recreational Trail.
As work there and on the mainland progressed, 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 and a call from Longboat Key’s mayor to rethink the whole project. Officials have emphasized improved communication and cooperation throughout.
In the past week, several developments have taken place.
Petition drive against roundabout
Longboat Key residents Bob Gault and Lynn Larson have led an effort to launch an online petition aimed at persuading state leaders to delay or cancel construction of a planned roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue. The intersection has long been a focal point of traffic concerns and differences of opinion on both sides of the bay. Sarasota and Florida Department of Transportation are working together on the project, expected to begin construction in about a year. Longboat leaders have criticized the plan, calling it unnecessary.
The petition states, in part, “We the undersigned are strongly opposed to the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Tamiami Trail and Gulfs Stream Boulevard in downtown Sarasota.”
City transportation engineers have said the roundabout, in combination with smaller circles at Fruitville Road, 10th Street and 14th Street, are the answer for growing traffic on the Bayfront, reducing intersection delays by as much as 41% during high-traffic season, along with safety benefits for drivers and pedestrians.
The petition can be found here.
On the Sarasota agenda
Longboat Key Town Commissioners will speak officially to the Sarasota City Commission in the evening portion of its April 6 meeting at Sarasota City Hall. Commissioners and staff hope to raise the issue of traffic overall and the proposed roundabout in particular.
A new way around
Getting to the barrier islands from the mainland is a little more complicated these days after work on the Fruitville Road roundabout at U.S. 41 entered a new phase. A detour diverts westbound traffic on Fruitville at Cocoanut Avenue north into the Rosemary District to Boulevard of the Arts, then over to U.S. 41 for the turn south through the construction zone. With the traffic light now removed at the intersection, northbound traffic flows through a temporary diversion nonstop. Ringling Boulevard is an alternative for those drivers who don’t care to take the detour.
As part of that new flow, three turn lanes are now back in use at Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41. One of them had been closed since early this year because of work at Fruitville Road, a few blocks to the north.
No more closures until after Easter
Diana Corrigan, the executive director of the St. Armands Circle Business Improvement District, said lane closures on the Ringling Causeway will be suspended until after Easter as work progresses on the MURT project north and south of the highway.
Work will continue along the roadsides, particularly on storm water drains, but it will be performed during off-business hours.
Typically, traffic drops off after Easter as winter residents begin returning north and the volume of vacationers begins to dwindle.
Open House planned on March 17
FDOT is holding an open house for the public from 5-7 p.m. March 17 at Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium for members of the public to come and see what the 10th Street and 14th Street roundabouts will look like when completed. No formal presentation is planned, but officials will be there to answer questions.