FDOT to host session from 5 to 7 p.m. at Municipal Auditorium
The District One staff of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is inviting the public to a March 27 update on the proposed construction of a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue in Sarasota.
The meeting, with an open house format, will be conducted from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Municipal Auditorium, which is located at 801 N. Tamiami Trail in downtown Sarasota, FDOT has announced.
During the session, FDOT will display information about the proposed project, a news release explains. People also will be able to ask questions and provide comments to FDOT representatives in one-on-one settings, the release adds.
Moreover, FDOT will accept written comments during the session, the release notes.
The FDOT project website says the purpose of the roundabout “is to improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between the City of Sarasota’s Downtown Central Business District and the Bayfront area while improving vehicular traffic flow and operations. US 41 is a major roadway with high traffic volumes and speeds and acts as a barrier for residents and visitors between Downtown Sarasota and the waterfront. This project is consistent with the City of Sarasota’s Downtown Master Plan. The master plan calls for a better integrated transportation system for all travel modes while maintaining the character and theme of the downtown area.”
Regardless of FDOT’s view, a number of residents in the affected area — as well as Longboat Key town commissioners — have expressed concerns about FDOT’s plan.
In a Feb. 24 email, responding to a constituent, Sarasota Vice Mayor Liz Alpert wrote, “I realize [that it] is controversial, but [FDOT staff members] have done their homework and are the experts on traffic flow. We are currently installing roundabouts at 10th Street and 14th Street on U.S. 41, so that should give us an idea how they work on U.S. 41.”
Alpert noted that she is the City Commission’s representative to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, which comprises elected officials from Sarasota and Manatee counties. “So, I have a little bit of knowledge about these issues, but I am far from an expert on traffic,” she added.
The MPO’s mission, its website explains, is to develop a future plan, through cooperation with its member governments and the general public, “for a safe, efficient, financially feasible, environmentally sensitive, regional, integrated multi-modal transportation system that supports sustainable, livable communities and economic development.”
The constituent had complained to Alpert about long traffic delays he had encountered between downtown Sarasota and Lido and Longboat keys. “For 8 years,” he wrote,” I have been traveling regularly from Ken Thompson Park to [the intersection of Palm [Avenue] & Cocoanut [Avenue] at 5:00 [p.m.]. During this time of year, traffic can be bad getting around St. [Armands] Circle and crossing the Ringling Bridge. But as bad as it has been in the past, this year it has reached the unacceptable point. I can see the Bridge from where I live, and it has now become a daily occurrence that we see the traffic barely moving in the late afternoon.”
He added, “The solutions I have seen proposed are, at best, ridiculous. A Roundabout at Gulfstream & [U.S.] 41? It will be impossible for cars coming up or down [U.S.] 41 to continue past this roundabout. And think of pedestrians trying to cross. I often walk around downtown, and it is a daily occurrence that I have to avoid getting hit in the Palm [Avenue] or Five Points roundabouts. The other day, for example, I stood at the pedestrian crosswalk on Palm waiting for SIX [his emphasis] vehicles to proceed across the crosswalk without [stopping] for me & my dog. And one of those vehicles was a County truck.”
The FDOT project
In June 2016, FDOT began a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study, the first formal step in the process to evaluate improvements at the intersection, a District One project website explains. The cost of that initiative, handled by Kimley-Horn and Associates of Sarasota, is $436,000, the webpage says. The consulting firm is analyzing the intersection plus the area within a 600-foot radius from the site, the website adds.
The PD&E study is expected to be completed this summer. The tentative timeline calls for the design to be finished in the spring of 2019, with construction starting in the fall of 2019, an FDOT newsletter says. A project schedule posted on the website indicates completion of the roundabout would be in the 2020-21 fiscal year, with partial funding already set aside for right of way acquisition and construction.
Each fiscal year for state agencies begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.
FDOT is sending notices of the March 27 meeting to owners of property located within at least 300 feet of the intersection, including residents along Sunset Drive and Golden Gate Point, the department news release points out. Nonetheless, all members of the public will be welcome at the session, the release says.
Anyone wishing to provide comments by email may send them to FDOT Project Manager Joshua Jester at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org, the latest project newsletter says. They are due by April 6, it adds.
If a person desires to send comments by mail, those also must be postmarked by April 6, the newsletter notes. They should be addressed to Joshua Jester, Project Manager, FDOT, PO Box 1249, Bartow, FL 33831.