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Article by: Eric Garwood
The public this week will get another chance to see the progress being made on Florida Department of Transportation’s Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study.
Among the proposals: a variety of park and ride alternatives; water taxis serving a selection of barrier island destinations and an aerial tramway, using a gondola-like arrangement to carry riders across Sarasota Bay from the downtown area to St. Armands Circle.
A public workshop is planned from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Longboat Island Chapel, 6200 Gulf of Mexico Drive. The meeting is designed as an opportunity to review displays and talk with FDOT staff.
The $675,000 project is an examination of how to improve the flow of traffic to, from and on Longboat, Anna Maria Island and Lido Key.
After an initial phase reviewing years of previous studies was completed earlier this year, the study has moved into a second step to evaluate traffic data during the past few months. The study is expected move into the third phase in 2018: action plans to ease the long wait times residents experience every fall and winter driving around Longboat and the surrounding island communities.
Discussions about the fate of the Cortez Bridge, which connects Bradenton Beach to mainland Manatee County, will be a part of the study. FDOT has recommended a high-rise bridge, to alleviate travel delays. Longboat officials agree with FDOT on the bridge plans. But residents near Bradenton Beach have balked, saying such a structure, similar in scale to the Ringling Bridge in Sarasota, would be aesthetically out of place. The other options are a low-rise drawbridge, similar to the existing bridge, and a higher-rise drawbridge that would allow more boat traffic to pass under without stopping traffic.
Along with these multi-million dollar projects, Longboat hopes the study will shed light on other long-time traffic nuisances, which goes as far as to evaluate how much time people spend blocking roadways looking for parking spots along the water at Bradenton Beach to how to better integrate pedestrians around the roadways in St. Armands Circle.
Among the other proposals offered up in the study, to this point:
- Park and ride at Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport;
- Park and ride in downtown Sarasota
- Park and ride at the Van Wezel Center for the Performing Arts
- An aerial tramway between downtown Sarasota and St. Armands Key
- Water shuttles from Sarasota to City Island
- Beach shuttle for all of Lido Key Beach
- Water shuttle between Sarasota and Bird Key, St. Armands Circle, Lido Key and South Lido Key Beach
- Park and ride from Westfield Siesta Key Mall to beach sites