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Date of Issue: June 25, 2008

Planning now to facilitate traffic woes later

Optimism is high that an extended turn lane for southbound traffic approaching Cortez Road on Gulf Drive will be constructed before the Sept. 29 closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Mike Howe, executive director of the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, told members of the Island Transportation Planning Organization that Florida Department of Transportation officials went to Tallahassee to walk through the permitting process with various agencies to get the extended lane approved.

Plans call for about 900 feet of extended turn lane on Gulf Drive at the Cortez Road intersection.

The hope is that the extra lane will help ease traffic problems during the 45-day closure of the bridge, which will cause all mainland traffic to and from the Island to use the Cortez Bridge.

Howe added that a part of the project is an extension of the sidewalk southeast of the intersection. Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce said easements from property owners would be needed for that project to proceed, but he was optimistic they could proceed.

Howe also had some good news on the transportation front in regards to funding. Although statewide cuts are prevalent in transportation world, local funds in the Manatee and Sarasota county areas are secure.

Landscaping along the roads, though, has taken a hit and streetscape improvements will not take place.

In other business, ITPO members were invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, June 30, for the inauguration of a southern transit route - Sarasota’s trolley service - from Coquina Beach to downtown Sarasota. The ceremony, which is invitation only - will take place at the new transit turnaround area at the entrance from Gulf Drive to the main concession stand at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach at the south end of Anna Maria Island.


New AMI-SRQ trolley hookup

Sarasota County Area Transit has begun a trolley service that links with the Anna Maria Island trolley at Coquina Beach. They hook up at a new trolley turnaround at Coquina Beach, where Manatee County Area Transit riders on the free Island trolley can ride the SCAT’s new fare-based (75 cents) trolley ride to Longboat and St. Armands keys and downtown Sarasota.

SCAT’s Longboat Key Trolley service began serving customers June 14, linking the Anna Maria Island trolley, which is free for riders, to the SCAT ride, which costs 75 cents, and takes passengers to various stops on a half-hour ride to Longboat Key, St. Armands Circle and downtown Sarasota and the same route for return trips. The SCAT trolley starts at 6 a.m. and winds up at 11 p.m. daily.

The new transit turnaround to catch the MCAT or SCAT trolley and transfer to MCAT bus service to Bradenton is at the main concession stand at Coquina Beach at the southern end of Anna Maria Island.