SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The detours around U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue in downtown Sarasota are no more, as the newly constructed roundabout in the area opens to traffic. It comes after more than a year and a half of construction.
Residents are glad to see the detours gone in the busy part of the city, but they’re also raising concerns about safety in the newly opened traffic circle.
“I have ongoing concerns,” said Linda Haller Sloan, who lives nearby the traffic circle. “We already – we hear horns honking constantly, which we did not hear before. I know that drivers have to get used to how to drive in it and how to yield as they are entering into the roundabout, but it seems like people are not sure how to drive in it. I think that there are ongoing concerns regarding conflict within the roundabout itself,” she continued.
Sloan feels the east roundabout exit onto Gulfstream Avenue is causing confusion among drivers and fears it will cause issues down the line.
“I am very concerned about crashes here,” said the downtown resident.
Jim Nelson, who spends five months in the Sarasota area each year, also has safety concerns.
“This one doesn’t seem well-designed, it is too tight and people don’t know how to use it. I have already had several problems here where people think I am in the wrong lane, but I am in the right lane because they don’t know what lane to be in,” said Nelson. “It is well-marked, but the layout is confusing,” he continued.
Nelson also feels people need to take their foot off the gas pedal as they’re traversing through the area.
“You’ve got to slow the people down, and if they are not slowing down on their own, you’ve got to force them to slow down. I think whether it is speed bumps or some type of rumble strips to get them to do it because so far, I have seen people come flying around into there,” said Nelson. “Give it two months and tell me how many accidents have happened here.”
Back in 2020, the roundabouts along U.S. 41 at 10th Street and 14th Street became trouble spots for drivers. Within a three-month period in 2020, Sarasota Police officers issued 42 citations, 40 warnings, and saw eight crashes at those two roundabouts.
Authorities say it is important that people understand drivers in the traffic circle have the right of way and those entering must yield to those drivers. Trooper Kenn Watson with the Florida Highway Patrol also emphasized the importance of being patient.
“As you enter a roundabout, speed is critical. We must slow down. We must be looking at where we want to go and realize that the traffic around us may be confused, so we want to give everyone a little bit of extra room. So when we talk about giving distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, it is absolutely critical within a roundabout, to make sure that you understand that someone might make a turn that you are not quite ready for, so having that space in between the vehicles is paramount,” Watson said.
FDOT still has work to complete, including pedestrian walkways. That is expected to be finished by spring 2023.