ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Unsuspecting motorists have found themselves stuck in traffic backed up for miles recently as they traveled from Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key to Sarasota.
“I’ve never seen traffic backed up this far, this is unreal,” said Bradenton Beach resident Jim Haas. “I was going for dinner with friends in Sarasota and had to turn around and come home. I stopped at a store in Longboat and the guy working said his customers were reporting a two-hour wait to get through St. Armands Circle and across the bridge into Sarasota.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 17, the traffic in Coquina Beach looked more like a Saturday during spring break than an August afternoon. Traffic was unusually heavy, but beach parking was virtually empty, likely due to people turning around after realizing going south was a futile effort.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the project causing the backups is the reconstruction of the signalized intersection on U.S. Highway 41 at Gulfstream Avenue. It is being replaced with a multi-lane roundabout. The project also includes installing a HAWK pedestrian crossing signal system, replacing the underground drainage structures, utilities, fiber optic, LED streetlights, reconfiguration of stormwater retention ponds and adding sidewalks and pedestrian walkways.
The project is being done in several phases with completion set for Fall 2022, but the current traffic pattern shift causing the most serious delays should flow better within several days to a couple of weeks. In the meantime, motorists can use a navigation app to check for delays, or avoid the construction area altogether using Cortez Road to U.S. Highway 41 into Sarasota.