Mayors disappointed with traffic study results

ITPO island traffic study
FDOT project manager Tricia Labud offers preliminary traffic study data findings to the Island mayors during an ITPO meeting. - Kristin Swain | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Island Traffic Study has a long way to go before results impress the three Island mayors.

After a recent presentation by Florida Department of Transportation project manager Tricia Labud, Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson was the first to express his concern. Johnson asked if Stantec, the contractor conducting the study, is providing any accumulation of collected data. Primarily, he’s concerned with receiving results that don’t consider driver origins and destinations.

Labud said Stantec has gathered some data using strategically placed Bluetooth counters during the previous winter season. Additional roadway user information is expected to be gathered from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Using this information, Labud expects Stantec representatives to determine how many visitors are coming to Anna Maria Island for leisure rather than work. Other collection methods include sending surveys to local business owners and online at the project website.

Though Labud admits more information gathering is needed in this area, Johnson still isn’t satisfied.

“I think it’s difficult to find solutions when you don’t know what it’s being used for,” he said.

Causing concern for Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy is how available parking spaces on the Island were calculated for the study.

Labud said approximately 2,500 parking spaces are available across the three Island cities for public parking. The issue, she admitted, is that the only parking that was counted is located in publicly available lots. The counts do not include right-of-way parking. Murphy said discounting right-of-way parking removes many of the spaces available in the Island cities.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon agreed with his fellow mayors. He said more work needs to be done to adequately assess the usage of Island roads, sidewalks and available parking during peak season.

One of the potential traffic solutions offered by Labud is to enact a park and ride service for beachgoers. Shearon suggested beachgoers might not be the best audience for a park and ride service because they come with baggage. Even if some people use the service, he said it might not be enough to alleviate congestion. This leaves riders in the same traffic without their personal vehicles.

“I think it’s going to be a real challenge to get people to use a park and ride system,” he said.

“It goes back to knowing who your users are,” Murphy said. He suggested targeting Island workers versus beachgoers. “You need to target the people who would benefit from your product,” he added.

Labud said the traffic study is in the middle of the second of three phases. A steering committee meeting to discuss Phase Two is tentatively scheduled for the first week in November.

“Phase Two is the primary work,” Johnson said. “I can’t imagine having all of the information that’s needed in the short period of time the study’s been going on.”

Labud said a more detailed report on the traffic study is expected at the next Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting. A draft of the study analysis also is expected within the next few weeks.