There’s no sense reinventing the wheel for a traffic study.
That’s why Florida Department of Transportation consultants working on the $675,000 District 1 Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study pored over more than a dozen completed traffic studies looking for answers.
The consultants are tasked with improving traffic flow on the barrier islands from Anna Maria south to Lido Key.
There are no easy answers. Possible solutions involve off-site parking, expensive bridges, water taxis and new routes for bikes and pedestrians.
The study area in Sarasota and Manatee counties includes portions of Bradenton and Sarasota and all of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Longboat and Lido keys and St. Armands.
A 44-page first-phase report recently released by Stantec Consulting Services Inc. of Sarasota evaluated the older traffic studies to determine if any findings are useful.
Stantec project manager Frank Domingo said increased barrier island traffic over the past five years spotlights the effectiveness of at least one possible solution.
“Park-and-ride options from an east-west standpoint might become a lot more viable,” Domingo said. “Improving that service is clearly going to be a key piece.”
A regional park-and-ride strategic plan from 2013 could be updated, he said. Water taxis also could be part of the answer, he said.
Technology now allows for more in-depth analysis of trends, he said, particularly Bluetooth traffic origin data collectors.
Domingo said data collectors at strategic sites ping the Bluetooth signal to indicate if traffic originates off island or on island.
“Not everybody has that Bluetooth on, or even has a phone, but it gives us a good idea on the trend traffic is moving in,” Domingo said.
Domingo said phase two will involve analysis of the data, including traffic counts through the 2017 season.
Stantec reviewed at least 19 traffic studies during phase one, according to the report, and nine were deemed not relevant.
Other studies that proved useful, according to the Stantec report, include the 2016 Cortez Road/Gulf Drive intersectional analysis; 2015 Cortez Road operational analysis; 2014 development plans from Sarasota County Area Transit and Manatee County Area Transit; 2013 Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization bicycle, pedestrian and trails master plan; 2013 Cortez Road traffic report; 2009 Anna Maria Island Bridge analysis; 2007 Bradenton Beach parking master plan; and a 2005 Sarasota/Manatee MPO water taxi feasibility study.
The current study is tasked with solving issues involving vehicles, parking, bicycles and pedestrians on the islands, as well as ensuring better flow and less wasted time on island-to-mainland connections.
Completion of the study is expected in late 2018.
Kris Cella, public involvement task manager for Cella Molnar & Associates Inc. of Fort Myers, said the outreach campaign will soon go islandwide.
“Our goal is to reach out to as many people on the island and people who use the bridges to get their input,” Cella said of her traffic study task.
Cella said organizations and homeowner associations will receive emailed invitations to the public meetings.
The first barrier islands traffic study public meeting will be held in August, she said. Time and place have yet to be determined.
Domingo said the phase two report will be ready before the next MPO workshop at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 25, at the Holiday Inn-Sarasota Airport, 8009 15th St. E., Sarasota.
The MPO has suspended meeting in July and August.
However, the next Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting will include discussion on the study at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at Longboat Key Town Hall, 501 Bay Isles Road.