Latest update on Barrier Islands Traffic Study shows peak period for traffic runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily

Longboat Key sees greatest increase in traffic of all the islands during the height of tourist season, report says

A graphic shows the area covered by the study. Image courtesy FDOT

The peak period for traffic between Sarasota and Manatee counties’ barrier islands and the mainland on the north as well as the south generally lasts from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week, based on data collection and analysis for the Sarasota-Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study.

Moreover, the “greatest differential between peak-season and nonpeak-season traffic is on Longboat Key (90% greater),” the latest update on the study says, with the majority of traffic to Longboat Key coming from the south.

“The long peak-traffic durations coupled with the drawbridge openings significantly degrades the operations,” the update notes.

That information is part of the Aug. 16 update on the Barrier Islands Traffic Study that the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has provided to local government leaders in both counties, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.

The comprehensive study, which the MPO requested the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) undertake, has been designed “to examine the feasibility of improving the overall transportation infrastructure on the barrier islands in Sarasota and Manatee counties, as the project website points out. Its estimated completion is in the fall of 2018.

In addition to traffic signal delays,” the update continues, motorists are held up by drivers unfamiliar with the area, “conflicts with pedestrian/bicyclists, and queue spillover from adjacent intersections.”

Yet, the report notes, “Intersection improvements may not reduce vehicular delay to an acceptable Level of Service due to oversaturated conditions. Therefore, recommendations for improvements will be based on reduction in relative delay between the existing ‘no-build’ configuration and an improved configuration” (for example, an additional turn lane) “or type of traffic control” (for example, converting a signal to a roundabout). (See the related story in this issue.)

The update further points out, “Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach, and Longboat Key have the highest interaction with other parts of the Barrier Islands,” while traffic from Lido Key and Anna Maria Island has the “lowest interaction with other parts of the Barrier Islands.”

A chart shows the timeline for phases of the study. Image courtesy FDOT

The first phase of the Barrier Islands Traffic Study entailed research and a review of previous assessments of the pertinent issues, the report on that phase explains. The second phase — which is underway — involves data collection and observations, including “bottleneck locations” and details about traffic queuing.

David L. Hutchinson, executive director of the MPO, wrote in an email accompanying the project status report that FDOT representatives will provide an update on the study to the Island Transportation Planning Organization — an MPO group — on Sept. 11 and to the MPO board on Oct. 23.

The project timeline calls for Phase II to be completed early in the winter of 2018.