St. Armands is a small island shared by approximately 260 residences, an outdoor, pedestrian shopping district, a Lutheran church, and a park that hosts various special events. But, it is also the only direct way to reach Lido and Longboat Keys by vehicle from downtown. This means that the residents who are out for a walk, the visitors who are shopping and dining and crossing over to the park, and the people attending a church service all have to share the island's roadways with the vehicular traffic from all the residents, visitors, guests, employees, contractors and service providers going to and from Lido and Longboat, which offer beaches, parks, marinas, hotels and clubs as attractions.
Many consider the roadways through St. Armands to already be broken because the Circle becomes practically impassible certain hours of the day in-season, especially on a good beach day. There is also the drawbridge to Longboat that has to be raised for sail boats periodically and which can lead to traffic back-ups all the way through the Circle. These are inconveniences at best and a public safety issue at worst: pedestrians must exercise extreme caution and emergency vehicles may have difficulty getting through.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2023, the City experienced what can happen when lanes are closed for people leaving the barrier islands. It wasn't a remarkable day, and it wasn't a particularly busy time of year, but traffic backed up from downtown to past the Longboat Publix when roundabout construction required the closure of all but one eastbound lane. There was no forewarning, and apparently people missed flights and medical appointments, and the phones at City Hall and the police department were ringing off the hook with people calling in to complain. Observer Article: Surprise roundabout lane closure outrages Sarasota, Longboat
In this April 27, 2023 Sarasota Magazine article, community leader Jon Thaxton responds to this question: Can we avoid the same fate as Fort Lauderdale? His response:
“It’s too late. It already has happened—it just hasn’t been built yet. We have duplicated Fort Lauderdale in our collective comprehensive plans. It’s all approved. The only difference is Fort Lauderdale is largely built and ours is approved and waiting to be built. Get used to it. People complain about the traffic today. You haven’t even seen any traffic compared to what you’re going to see.”
The worst traffic weeks of the year tend to correspond to school vacations:
Note: Information about upcoming city street and right-of-way closures can be found at this city webpage. The link will take you to a GIS mapping application. Move the map and zoom in/out as necessary. There is a slider that controls the timeframe you are viewing: move the slider to the right to see upcoming city street and right-of-way closures. Click on any colored line to view more information, which will include a link to the city permit. Upcoming work on State roads is listed at this FDOT webpage.