Friday, February 20, 2015

Feeling a little penned in? Talk Traffic!

via the SH_T: 

Time to talk traffic

Convene broad-based group to tackle Ringling Causeway congestion

Traffic backs up on the Ringling Causeway on Wednesday, Jan. 14. City Commissioner Eileen Normile has called for a "traffic summit" of local and state officials to consider solutions for the causeway's seasonal traffic jams.
Published: Friday, February 20, 2015 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7:02 p.m.
Talk about the Ringling Causeway traffic usually involves a lot of waiting. Waiting in your car or truck for the line of vehicles in front of you to start moving. Waiting for the city, county or state to do something to relieve the congestion.
But some of the Sarasota city commissioners are tired of waiting.
One of them, Eileen Normile, suggested at Tuesday's commission meeting that the city convene a "traffic summit" of local and state officials, urban design experts and others.
The intent would be to explore ideas about how to get traffic moving on the causeway and at its intersections with U.S. 41 at one end and St. Armands Circle at the other.
Two of Normile's colleagues -- Susan Chapman and Suzanne Atwell -- voice support for the summit.
It's an idea that the public, public officials and local businesses should get behind.
Inconvenience and safety
Vehicle counts on the causeway and its main intersections are rising higher than normal for the tourist season, as noted in an editorial last week and in a recent story by the Herald-Tribune's Josh Salman.
The traffic tie-ups are not only an inconvenience for drivers -- turning what is normally a 10-minute trip on the causeway into an ordeal of an hour or more. They pose a safety issue for residents of -- or visitors to -- St. Armands, Lido and Longboat who need emergency medical care on the mainland.
With major residential and commercial developments underway or planned, on and near the U.S. 41/causeway intersection, the time to seek solutions is now.
A traffic summit is a good place to start, and, as Normile said, the sooner one is held, the better.
As we said last week, studies should be conducted to determine where most of the traffic is coming from and where it's going. Among many other questions are whether existing roads and other infrastructure can be adapted to accommodate more traffic, what compromises are acceptable and what is the cost of doing nothing.
Roundabouts are planned for the U.S. 41/causeway intersection and nearby U.S. 41/Fruitville Road, but those would be built years from now -- if they're ever built.
Normile suggested that some "short-term mitigation" is needed now, perhaps a right-turn lane from U.S. 41 to Fruitville. Chapman said mass transit must be part of any solution.
Both those ideas and others should be explored at the traffic summit.
Many potential participants
Normile proposed that the summit include the city's engineering staff and urban design studio as well as representatives from Sarasota County and the state Department of Transportation.
We would add that an official with the county's transit system should be part of the mix, along with Longboat Key officials, St. Armands and downtown merchants, real-estate developers and brokers, community activists, and the operator of the popular shuttle service that serves Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.
All interested parties should participate, and all ideas should be on the table.
Just make sure the traffic summit is scheduled at a time that will allow everyone to get there. That might take awhile.

Comment from Bill Zoller:

Well, in reality, it was time to talk traffic a long time ago...before it became untenable! Just as it was time to talk traffic before the comp plan amendments and rezonings for the UTC were granted. Just as it was time to talk traffic when most large projects were being considered. It is inexcusable for our elected officials to approve these sorts of things before they have figured out the impacts. One may ask: is there even a shred of integrityamong our county commissioners who continue to foist these situations on the citizens in order to benefit ... their major campaign contributors? Perhaps their integrity is on the level of a commissioner's thinking that heading up Argus, a major lobbying group here in Sarasota, while serving on the BCC, is not a conflict of interest. How about the fact that, while counties and municipalities around the area are raising their impact fees now that the "crash" is behind us, Sarasota County Commissioners seem content to keep their rates artificially low ... in the face of these untenable traffic situations? Is this what they call "Integrity"? What is wrong with this picture?

Can you think of what this county needs, in one word? Hint: it begins with "I".

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