- October 19, 2020
Although Longboat Key did not hide its animosity for the roundabout now complete in Sarasota, the town is actively pursuing a roundabout of its own on the north end of the barrier island.
In Sept. 2018, the town voted to spend $22,760 from its contingency fund to hire CDM Smith to peer review plans for the roundabout at Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41.
However, the study only yielded minor flaws in the design plans for the project.
Arthuro Perez, CDM Smith’s senior project manager, told commissioners in Feb. 2019 the then-proposed roundabout would be no better than the three-turn lane “no-build” alternative of the intersection as it stands. The Florida Department of Transportation, however, has said its traffic projections by 2040 show the roundabout will improve the flow of traffic by 72% over the existing junction during peak morning traffic and 14% more during afternoon traffic.
According to the town, the goal of constructing the roundabout on Broadway Street at Gulf of Mexico Drive is to help slow down traffic, provide for safer vehicular crossings and left turns, address significant elevation changes and enhance bicyclist and pedestrian safety.
Design for the roundabout is about 90% complete, according to Public Works Department Director Isaac Brownman. Gulf of Mexico Drive is a state road, S.R. 789, so all designs and permitting must go through the Florida Department of Transportation. Final permitting of the project is in progress.
As is with any project of this magnitude, residents in the Longbeach neighborhoods have raised concerns, though others have been supportive.
Resident of Longbeach Condominiums David Baughman says his concern stems from the roundabout design eliminating the center turn lane, on which he relies now to turn into his neighborhood from the south.
"I really think the better thing would be to put a traffic light there that would be a blinker for most of the day because it's not really necessary until traffic builds up," he said.
He has come to terms with the fact that with design nearing completion that not much can be done to alter the town's decision.
"It's just a concern to me," he said. "I totally admit I am being selfish because I use that center turn lane all the time."
Funding sources and timeline for construction is to be determined. Construction must be coordinated with FDOT since the project does fall under its jurisdiction, though state officials typically look for local spending before considering funneling state dollars into a project.
On Jan. 11, 2022, the Manatee County Commission approved transfers from the reserves in the transportation trust fund to the highway capital projects fund for the Broadway roundabout project as construction would lie within their county lines of the barrier island.
The agreement, which was executed at the commission’s Sept. 27, 2022 meeting, between the town and Manatee County states that the county will fund and reimburse the town 50% of the design costs or $150,000, whichever is less.
The town’s portion of the agreement requires staff to complete the project through its own employees or through contracted service providers. The town will submit written requests and invoices each month to the county for payments that have been made.
The roundabout is also being designed and permitted by Kimley-Horn.
In terms of next steps, the primary one is finding the money to fund the construction. Construction is expected to cost between $2 million and $3 million.
“The town does not have that kind of funding set aside to build this,” Brownman said.
At the Dec. 12 workshop meeting, Brownman told commissioners that he and the department were taking all the necessary steps to “accelerate” the project as much as possible.
“Accelerating the process would involve finding ways to fund construction outside of town funding sources sooner rather than later,” Brownman wrote in an email. "Right now, the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization has the roundabout construction as cost feasible in the year 2030 of the regional Long Range Transportation Plan. The town’s goal is to work with FDOT and other relevant agencies to obtain construction funding sooner.”
Construction for the roundabout will likely take at least one year to complete.
“Preferably, the town would start sometime after the underground project is completed and in a manner to minimize impacts during season, to the extent feasible,” Brownman wrote.
The final schedule would be coordinated once the town has the necessary funding for the project in place.
Discussion for the potential construction of one on the south end have been had, but were only alluded to in Kimley-Horn’s final Gulf of Mexico Drive complete streets corridor plan, which was presented to the commission Dec. 12, 2022.
Brownman wrote that such construction of a roundabout on that side of the island would follow development consideration and review for plans with Longboat Key Club.
"Our thought is that when they are ready (to develop) then we will get serious about the roundabout," Mayor Ken Schneier said.
It is likely that plans would be fit into those for the club's development plans, and the town would look to them to help supplement costs of the circle's construction.