As downtown Sarasota continues to expand, its foot traffic does as well. To help Sarasota become a more pedestrian-friendly city, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has constructed two new roundabouts, one on 10th Street and one on 14th Street, to help slow traffic and allow space for walkers. These roundabouts are expected to be 90 percent complete by the first week of November.
During the first week of November, both the 10th and 14th Street roundabouts will undergo a walk through as major aspects of the construction are completed. A contract was created for the project in 2017, with construction costs estimated at $12.6 million. Improvements include widening streets to include bike lanes, a shared-use path and a 6-foot sidewalk along the east side of U.S. 41, and raised islands for pedestrian refuge at the intersections of U.S. 41, 10th Street and 14th Street.
Another roundabout, at the intersection of Fruitville Road and U.S. 41, was put in place by the City of Sarasota and is slated for completion in mid-November.
The Fruitville Road roundabout was contracted in October 2019. It was designed by a consultant for the Quay development, which needed the roundabout construction to be sped up in order to meet the project's timeline. An agreement was made between the city and the Quay to fund the construction, which was originally estimated at $6 million—however, only $928,000 has been spent so far. The project still needs its final paving, striping and landscaping before completion.
FDOT spokesperson Brian Rick says in addition to providing pedestrian safety and reducing traffic congestion, roundabouts continue to function in the aftermath of a severe storm event—a needed feature in the area, as the street's location is close to the water.
And downtown isn't done with roundabouts yet: another one will be placed at Gulfstream Avenue, and the contract is out for bid now. FDOT is looking to start the project in late January to early February of 2021. The first phase of the project will not impact the current road network, as construction will be outside of the road; after high season, FDOT will start putting up detours and modifications to prepare.
These changes to Sarasota's traffic flow are part of an overall plan that began in 2000, when the City of Sarasota hired a planning firm that specializes in New Urbanism, which aims to create walkable downtown areas. Based on several studies, it was determined that large intersections on U.S. 41 would function better as roundabouts, and implementation would roll out over a 10-year span. As input from the public was gathered, a subsequent chain of roundabouts was added at Main Street, Ringling Boulevard and Orange Avenue.